May 24, 2019

Open Forum — May 7, 2012

Sampler, Dawali Mediterranean Kitchen, Chicago

I am writing these words from the western suburbs of Chicago, where Gail and I spent the weekend.

On Sunday, we had a full day. We went to worship in the morning at the church we usually attend when we come up here (Gail’s sister’s congregation). Then we took the train downtown, had lunch in a nice coffeehouse in the Loop, followed by a ride on the “L” up to North Park University to hear our son’s spring jazz band concert. It was rainy on and off throughout the day, but we stayed mostly dry as we walked through various neighborhoods and around campus. We ate dinner together at a great Mediterranean restaurant near NPU (click on the picture to learn more about Dawali Mediterranean Kitchen) and then walked to the station to board for the return trip home.

Bottom line, we left early and arrived home late. I did a lot of reading on the train, but we were preoccupied with enjoying the day and one another, and I didn’t have a lot of time to put together a coherent article for my usual Monday post.

So…

I thought the Open Forum we had a couple of weeks ago turned out pretty well, didn’t you? I suggest we do it again.

This morning, the floor is all yours. This is another chance to get together with others and bring up topics you would like to talk about, rather than just responding to my pontifications.

The usual rules apply — No name-calling. No questioning of salvation. No food fights. You break it, you buy it. You mess it up, you clean it up. You get it out, you put it away. Flush. Wash your hands. Say “please” and “thank you.”

Oh, and have fun. Enjoy the gift of conversation.

Comments

  1. Unsteady Connor says

    I was introduced to iMonk in spring 2010, but I’ve never commented before, so I figure now might be as good a time as any to introduce myself.

    My name is Connor, twenty years old, and still recovering my faith from the scars of my conservative evangelical childhood. I suppose that makes me the prototypical “younger evangelical” that so many authors in the Christian industry write about and so many Christian motivational speakers are hoping to captivate with the latest and greatest, but honestly, most days I’m still struggling to hang on to a God that it doesn’t feel safe or sane to keep loving, especially if all the things I’ve heard about him turn out to be true.

    My dad’s an evangelical pastor currently dressed in Baptist clothing, though he received his seminary education at a school affiliated with a denomination that used to be Anabaptist in conviction. Fortunately for the both of us, I think, I started reading church and theology books just as soon as they starting littering our dining room table, so as he was discovering systematic theology, I was finding out about something called “Emergent” and realizing that I wasn’t the only “saved” person with questions about God.

    Lots of things have changed for me over the years since we started the seminary journey. (An odd way to think about it, probably, but my father wasn’t the only one whose life changed that fall when we moved halfway across the country.)

    I’ve agonized over my yogi grandmother whose ashes we scattered over Stone Mountain, GA because my father’s convinced she deserved hell.

    I’ve broken down in tears at a dispensational prophecy conference because of the conviction with which it was declared that the earth is going to be utterly destroyed, so we don’t need to bother ourselves taking care of it.

    I’ve wished that the Tao Te Ching was in the Bible instead of the Book of Proverbs, so often wielded as a weapon against me in childhood.

    I’ve dated girls and sat through the awful conversation about how I wasn’t leading God’s way and how my hesitance about all this “complementary roles” talk and belief that there just might be other, better ways to approach relationships was irresponsible.

    Finally, I wandered into the Episcopal Church… and haven’t left. To my astonishment, I was confirmed this Wednesday after two years of catechesis and questions and communion. But despite choosing the sacrament for myself and growing to love the people of my parish, I still find myself wary of the same kind of ungrace, the same kind of church mess that characterized my early childhood.

    Despite the strength and conviction of my baptismal covenant, renewed by the laying on of hands, I still don’t know if I can believe in God for the rest of my life.

    Hello, my name is Connor. Broken, agnostic, Christian.

    • Connor,

      The life of faith is a hard one. We are all (basically) at heart, nonbelievers.

      But the Lord has adopted you in your baptism and given you His Spirit. He made promises to you in that baptism which have nothing to do with how you feel about the whole thing. Promises that are valid and good no matter how far your heart may wander.

      So hang in there. Go to hear the Word (his law and gospel promises) and receive His body and blood.

      I can recommend a good daily devotional site which does NOT focus on you, and your feelings, or your faithfulness…one which is cross centered and focused on Christ Jesus and what He has done for you, is doing for you, and will yet do for you. It is 1minutedailyword.com

      I’ll be praying for you, Connor. Please remember me (once in a while) in your prayers. I too, could use them. Thanks.

    • Highwayman says

      Connor

      I understand what you say; I am almost three times your age and often wonder how I could have been so sure of things as a teenager that I don’t believe today.

      Three things (among many), I have learnt, however:

      1. Be honest. If you’re not sure about something, say so – it will be far more respected and helpful to others than peddling the party line. Jesus calls us to be his witnesses, not his sales reps. Witnesses speak the truth as they see it.

      2. God judges; we don’t have to. Remember the parable about the wheat and the tares – God is happy to let both grow together until harvest. There’s no way we can tell which is which and the institutional church or its pastors can’t be certain either.

      3. Live one day at a time; don’t worry about tomorrow (much easier said than done!) or whether you will believe for the rest of your life. Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans and it’s just as well that we don’t know in advance what it’s going to throw at us.

    • I’m going to be running late for work….but I read this and I can totally relate.

      Christian life hardly plays out like the way many fundys want. Also many fundys
      only add to life’s pain and hardship. I learned this while struggling with my work situation and my grandmother’s funeral. My grandmother who passed away in October of 2009 was 100 years and four months. She was loving, kind, and Irish Catholic. I went
      through a funeral mass and stood by her graveside thinking about what fundys have said about Catholics not being Christians and not being saved. John MacArthur’s teachings stunned me deep. While I was in Montana for my grandmother’s funeral I met a guy who helped take care of my grandmother who was a recovering alcoholic. The love my grandmother showed him helped keep him sober.

      I wanted to cry… My own faith betrayed me. I was a few months into a spiritual crisis but I felt so sick.

      I was also taught about God’s will and following God. So against my better judgment but as a good fundy I took a job and moved from Wisconsin to Washington, D.C. Now I’m hip deep in a job that has been problematic. I’m stuck while I am trying to change my life. And my anger boils at evangelicalism.

      I’ve considered myself agnostic but I don’t know at times. I have a lot of emotion and rage and sadness that goes through me. I’ve had a couple of evangelical friends who have come alongside of me….and I have talked to an evangelical pastor. But I don’t know what is going to happen.

      When I read your post it really had a lot of pain to it. I can relate. Evangelicalism can be painful and often evangelicals hurt each other well. They wound each other through “heresy sniffing”, accountability programs, narrow views of the Bible, and they let the likes of John Piper or Mark Driscoll think for them.

      Back in 2005 my Mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was a hard core reformed evangelical. I was also scared because of my Mom’s pancreatic cancer. After my Mom beat it she started to resume her life and move forward. I, in my stupid fundagelcial thinking, gave my Mom a pamphlet by John Piper in which he talks about cancer being a gift from God. You can read it at the “Desiring God” website it’s called “Don’t Waste Your Cancer”. After I lost my faith I went back to my Mom and asked for me forgiveness for giving her such a thing.

      Today my Dad is dealing with a brain tumor. It’s been a roller coaster ride. The last time I went through this was with my Mom. However, this time I am grateful to be more agnostic because I would never give my Dad another John Piper pamphlet telling him his cancer is a gift from God.

      You were betrayed by your faith Connor. I was also…. You and I are being honest. Many fundys however are living in denial. But you are not alone…..

      • Connor….you are truly not alone, and I am glad you are where you are (I am cradle Catholic and am particulary fond of liturgical churches, but you know we don’t try to convert each other here!)

        Let me also add that I am almost old enough to be your grandmother, so please trust me, if you can, that will get stronger in your own beliefs as you assume an adult role ESPECIALLY as you learn to see your father as another child of God with sin of his own, and not the omnipresent father you thought you knew as a child. Now you know parents are merely human, and you only have ONE Father who is always right, and who ALWAYS loves you with an abudance of grace. Always.

        But it is fine if you can’t totally believe this yet. He will give you all the time you need. He Loves without question, but isn’t pushy or demanding . He can wait for you as long as you need to learn more and see Him more. Not everyone is knocked off their horse on the way to Damascus. Some of us fall in love with the Lord gently over time, the way that cute girl in Chemistry becomes a fun study partner and then a good friend and then one day you look up…and realize you love her…..and want her to be your wife.

        EAgle, so glad you chimed in. Connor, EAgle went through the ringer at top speed for a long, long time, and I think he above most of us here at I-Monk can relate to your pain and confusion.

        So welcome, Connor, and put your baggage over in the corner. We all brought ours along with us, too, but we try to help each other sort through the bags, ditch the useless stuff, and learn how to carry the rest.

    • If you missed in the first or second time around – this essay on doubt by Michael Spencer is certainly worth reading.

      https://internetmonk.com/archive/imonk-classic-i-have-my-doubts

    • cermak_rd says

      Jews have a tradition of wrestling with Almighty. Not like Jacob, but as a grappling with the reality of the Divine and wrestling with Torah to figure out a way to work with Him/Her/It. After all, don’t forget, Abraham argued and haggled, Jacob wrestled literally with an Angel, David committed a fairly atrocious breach of his command as King and his own ethics and the Commandments, and yet danced also. All complex stories that reflect that life with the Divine is not about sitting down and hearing a presentation, but about living.

      • I refound my faith by joining a Torah study group at the synagogue. We do struggle with what God wants from us but no one is looked down on because they have a differing point of view.

        I now teach a class “Torah from a Christian’s perspective” at a not for credit Community Church College. The people in the classes for the most part are listening to each other. The Christians learn more about what Jesus and The Apostles meant and the Jews are learning that we have many similarities. It is too bad I don’t see that in a lot of Church families. All too often, it is “my way or the highway”

        Imonk is a great place to communicate. If I read something I disagree with, I think about it , do some research and many times I find I agree with more than I realized.

      • We are all going to grapple and wrestle with God as we enter spiritual adulthood. There is no avoiding it. Ask CS Lewis about ‘having words’ with the Lord. It is through these battles that we must prevail to emerge from a cocoon and find our new name. Israel was born after Jacob fought with God. Our fullest identity is born out of that violence. Honest exploration in the spirit will always lead to conflict between who we think we are (Jacob) and who we are called to be (Israel). If we skip around that fight and keep a smiley face on things, that new name will collect dust in a book and we will forever live as a stale version of what was supposed to be. Now I am not suggesting that we go looking for that fight – by all means no. It’ll find us.

        • humanslug says

          Good thoughts.
          And I can’t help but smile thinking about Lewis “having words” with the Lord.
          It may very well be that occasional conflict is a necessary element in all but perfect relationships between perfect people. And when it comes to our relationships with God, I suspect we humans supply enough imperfection for the both of us.
          Besides, a relationship without some challenge, friction, or conflict is more than likely just two people co-existing in mutual apathy.
          Perfect love may bring perfect peace — but imperfect people loving imperfectly is always going to be a messy affair.

    • Unsteady Connor says

      Thank you so much for the welcome. It means much, truly.

      Before I continue on, I feel I should clarify on a couple points, just to make sure I don’t throw my father under the bus of my own struggles. He’s a good man, he really is; I just struggle to relate to him in faith terms a lot of the time. For twenty-five years, he was a naval nuclear engineer and from what I can tell, he has always tried to engineer his beliefs in a solid and consistent way, just as a nuclear reactor requires impeccable balance.

      I’m a poet and a reader of literature and a person who’s always, if I look back on it, had trouble sitting still through a sermon if it goes longer than fifteen minutes or so. As I’ve opened my faith to questions, it’s felt natural – as though belief was always this way and I just never acknowledged it because I didn’t know how. And my dad’s always been there with coffee and counsel AND best of all, when I was confirmed last week and served as a lay Eucharistic minister behind the altar rail for the first time, he was there, in communion with the fellowship.

      Even in the upheaval of our give-and-take, there have been beautiful moments.

      • Sounds to me like you are in the midst of the Honest journey, not the Prescribed one. That’s inspiring.

    • Hey Conner – Thanks for stepping out from behind the lurking curtain and introducing yourself to us here at IM! My name is Rebekah Grace (obviously) and my story is too long to put here.

      I appreciate candor – it helps me know I’m not alone in my own ‘unsteadiness’!

      I appreciate your willingness to say what you feel and feel what you say, even to the point of calling yourself ‘Unsteady Connor’!

      I appreciate anyone’s struggle – we all have one – if someone says they don’t – pssss, I have a secret – they’re lyin’ out their teeth :/

      There have been moments in my own journey that I am dumbfounded to learn that the god I bailed on at 13(ish) is not the God I returned to at 39! I believe, firmly and humbly, that many agnostics question the existence of God because of the god that was presented to them – I respect that journey in anyone’s life. Being the rebel daughter, I understand bailing. Being the prodigal daugther, I understand returning Home. His embrace is sweet!

      My dad is a pastor as well (long a$$ story there), and since my return Home I had this assumption that I would find myself closer to my dad, because now I have ‘faith’, I’m not rebelling or running, and I’m reading the Bible – of which he knows SO MUCH OF. That has not been the case, at all. I am still taken aback when I see how differently my faith is lived out than my dad (and my mom too). I’m coming to see that God isn’t One to make clones of people – we are each exactly where we are for such a time as this. My dad, I’m sure, has reached many people and touched many lives for Christ – I must accept that I will do the same, even if it’s not the same ‘kinds of people’!

      And lastly: “he was a naval nuclear engineer and from what I can tell, he has always tried to engineer his beliefs in a solid and consistent way, just as a nuclear reactor requires impeccable balance.”

      My dad is a student of theology – very smart, can tell you anything about anything in the Bible, when, where and who – but last weekend, he and I had a conversation, a deep conversation, about some family issues and this man, this earthly father of mine, sat in front of me talking as if he didn’t know God at all. A strange place for this daughter of his who has had a gazillion and one issues with him, my earthly father and therefore, my Heavenly Father.

      I don’t want solid and consistent – Jesus can be my solid and consistent – I already know this life of faith will be anything but becaus I am not solid and consistent. I’m flighty and emotional and moody and I doubt too.

      I rambled. I hope I made some sense. You are welcome here. Thank you, again, for stepping out!

      In His grace,
      Rebekah

    • Welcome Connor! I hope yo become a regular , in many ways you are just like me. I have my days(months) of doubt and i have an existential crisis at least every four months.

    • Radagast says

      Connor,

      In my faith tradition (Catholic) it seems more than a few of us go through an agnostic period in our college years as we break away from the faith of our mom and dad and claim it as our own (especially in areas of large cultural catholic populations). It is an intense time of questioning, and for me it was brought on by points made by professors at a secular university.

      Fast forward almost 30 years and now my boys going through the same process – except this time they are struggling with the party line that religion is for the ignorant (since I am both an engineer and a director of religous education they are curious why I don’t fit the paradigm). We do have some fun discussions. I tend to go by something a wise priest once told me, he said that the faith was like a diamond and it is possible to look at it from many angles – but the chief point here is that you should look at it and not just accept the party line. And so that is what I counsel my boys.

      It seems to me from reading this blog and other experiences that more indoctrination or brainwashing goes on in the evangelical and especially the fundy world, which makes it harder to go through this natural cycle, or causes one to crash when one finds that not all is the way it seems.

      Good luck on your journey and the only piece of advice I can give you is that this is truly a natural journey, A time for you to discover and make your faith truly your own, and maybe over time grasp that we are a church made up of fallen humans who do and say stupid things, but we are still a community struggling together (no need to have to wear a false smile all the time).

      Peace.

  2. BTW…when it comes to complimentarism I was thinking about this the other day.

    Jesus wasn’t into complementarianism. I mean consider:

    1. Mary asked him to turn water into wine so the wedding feast at Cana can continue.
    2. Didn’t Mary/Martha ask Jesus to come to visit Lazarus?

    I need to run…but I am sure there are other examples in the NT. But the above two (if I am correct) highlight that Jesus didn’t believe in an exclusive male dominated leadership system. In both cases he was okay with taking commands from a female.

    Why don’t they talk about that in Christianity?

    • Eagle, tsk, tsk, tsk…..

      You said “Why don’t they talk about this in Christianity” when I am 99.9% sure that you MEANT to say,

      “Why don’t they talk about this in fundamental / evalgelical christian churches” 🙂

      • Yes, there are plenty of Christians (fortunately) who have never even _heard_ the word “complementarian.”

        What blows my mind, really, is why a guy (Christian or otherwise) would even _want_ to be in a relationship that doesn’t feel equal. I mean, that’s a great ego trip for a couple of months, but after that it starts to get awfully boring. The women in my life who I most enjoy hanging out with are all people who I wouldn’t even dream of asking to “submit” to me. (Of course, many of them are lesbians, but that’s another can of worms!)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Pattie…

        Problem is Fundagelicals have redefined “Christian” without any modifiers to mean THEIR type of Christian and their type alone. All the rest of us these days have to use qualifiers.

  3. It’s times like this I especially love iMonk…when people pour out their hearts, doubts, questions, struggles and are supported and loved. Connor, thank you for sharing your heart with us. And Eagle, thank you for your honesty, as always.

  4. JoanieD says

    Unsteady Connor…it’s great to hear from you! I hope you continue to comment. Your writings and thoughts are first-rate. I think many of us have doubts sometimes, or often, or even most of the time. We need to focus on the basis of our faith…God is love; Jesus loves us; we are here to grow into that love and remind people that they, too, are loved and will be forever with God. Obviously, there is much more to it, but when things seem complicated, return to the basics. And pray…often.

    Jesus believes in you! (And I do, too.)

  5. I hesitate to post this because it might come across as CORNY… But, I got to thinking after reading all of the comments here: What if I could really believe the following list, what if I could really trust that God is love… I wish I was better with words to express the gratitude I have for all the grace, wisdom and kindness I have been gifted with here at IM…

    What if You really are not counting my transgressions….

    What if You laughed with delight at my silly sense of humor…

    What if You applaud my small acts of kindness…

    What if You rejoiced over me with singing…

    What if You only noticed where I thrived…

    What if You see me today, as I will be, when we come face to face….

    What if You know how much I have hurt & struggled because of Your kids…

    What if You don’t get mad or angry at my doubts…

    What if You understand the way abuse shaped my thinking about You…

    What if Your mercies are new every-morning…

    What if Your steadfast love endures forever…

    What if there is now no condemnation…

    What if Grace is abounding even when I mess up…

    What if the soil I grow in is struggle…

    What if suffering might grow compassion & humility for others…

    What if the wounds I carry are the bridge into another heart…

    What if where I have been wounded is how I took off
    that mask of pretending I’m fine…

    What if just being real, messy, broken me is good enough for YOU…

  6. I will post for the first time just because I just need a place to speak. Yesterday in church our ss discussed Ephesians 5:22-23 and after listening to all the other women (and a few men) talk about the wondrous grace of submission, how marriages without submission just ended up in fights and divorce, and that in Genesis 3 that women were cursed with the desire to gain power over men, just had to talk up and said that 1)while I didn’t want to disturb people, there were other very valid interpretations of these verses and vs. 22 couldn’t be separated from v.21 and hence 2) I disagreed with the complementarian position and believed that submission in marriage was mutual and not one way and 3)that I didn’t see much difference between sacrificial love and submission — Paul’s instruction was using both of these as an example of mutual submission. My husband added some exegetical support re interpretations of “head” and the focus of the passage being on oneness of Christ and the church as expressed in marriage rather than any marriage hierarchy.

    A vigorous discussion ensued (bringing up the subordination of Jesus to God, among other things with lots of arguments how sacrificial love and submission were completely different etc etc. I pointed out that eternal subordination was a quite controversial theological position.

    It wasn’t generally bad, but clearly some people were very offended by my/our speaking up to disagree with the pastor’s teaching. One man ended with a (to me) nasty comment about “I don’t believe that it is an accident that it is this topic that has led to dissension in our class and I don’t believe it was an accident that it was Eve that was deceived in the garden.” Fortunately others were much more gracious. And I actually believe there were a few others who agreed with our position, although none were comfortable enough to speak.

    Just praying now for gracious in my own attitudes toward people (particularly this one man) and not looking forward to church next week. Nonetheless, I don’t want to keep my mouth shut when I disagree or just because I am a woman.

    • The message I heard Sunday had a thread in it about headship and submission also. I honestly don’t get it. I mean I really don’t get it. Why is this so important to some people, and do they even really understand what they mean when they talk about it? I’m thinking I may post more thoughts on this later today.

      • First, apologies for typos in my prior post.
        I also don’t think most clearly know what they are referring to when they talk about headship and submission. Interestingly, all of the examples of male leadership where in the hypothetical—referencing to some amorphous tie-breaking authority when there was lack of agreement. In 20 years of marriage, my husband and I have never reached such an impasse—and we have made numerous heavy decisions with regards to graduate school, careers, international moves, children, adoption, etc. And all of these decisions were made after study (not just of the Bible), discussion and prayer and made together. At times one of us would submit to the other’s good, but this was done by both of us.

        I also was really bothered by some of the women’s comments along the line of “it was so refreshing to give up authority to him.” “It is so nice to have someone who loves you sacrificially in charge.” My thoughts “How do you give up your authority? God holds us responsible for how we portray him to others. My husband (or your wife, etc) cannot take that responsibility/authority from you.” Side note: really dislike the song “Courageous” for implying this. You cannot be responsible for another’s salvation. You CAN be responsible for how you model Christianity to others and for how and what you teach your children.

        To be honest, my guess is that most in the room arguing for submission/headship are in actuality the “functional egalitarians” that were complained about so recently by the Piperite crowd. Not that they would acknowledge that, however.

        Phil, interesting our pastor frequently makes comments about the “clear message” in the gospel and my husband and I will drive away from church chuckling about the whole idea. What is so clear about the Bible where there are “clearly” so many different perspectives out there on so many issues in the Christian realm? Admittedly, I would place most of these issues in the status of secondary issues and not primary markers of Christianity.

    • Rachel Evans had a post on her blog a few days regarding this, and it ended up generating over 300 comments: http://rachelheldevans.com/complementarians-patriarchy

      I really don’t get it either, other than there are people who have been taught to read the Bible in a very flat way (anyone can understand the Bible, right?), and they read passages such as those in Ephesians 5, assume they know what it’s saying, and go on. It’s not that it takes a lot of gymnastics to read those passages in the correct light, but it does take some context. We assume that there’s historical context in the rest of Scripture, so why do people want to take it out of the equation here? I don’t get it.

      Personally I feel what other people do in their marriages is their business. But I do get tired of people holding up their marriages as the “Biblical” example. My wife is one of the smartest people I know, but yet there are many churches where the only thing she’d be able to offer her opinion on is what they should serve at the fellowship dinner after service.

    • Any bible study on Ephesians 5:22-23 needs to start with Ephesians 5:21 – Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

      Also, I have found that there is a tendency amongst complementarians to take their understanding of human relationships and apply it to the trinity – so they end up making Jesus subordinate to the Father. Instead, they should take the understanding of the trinity and apply it to human relationships.

      I recently read the the confession of faith of the World Reformed Fellowship. While I am not “Reformed”, and disagree with a number of the articles, I believe their statement on the Trinity is to be commended:

      The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all equally and fully God in their own right, and not by
      derivation, transfer or inheritance from the Father or anyone else. They share a common
      divine nature and because there is only one God, it is inadequate to claim to know one of the
      persons without knowing all three. The divine persons relate to each other in ways which are
      distinctive to each of them but which are all characterized by the common denominator of
      love. It is because the Father loves the Son that he has given him all authority in heaven and
      earth. It is because the Son loves the Father that he voluntarily sacrificed himself for us, so
      that we might live with him in heaven as the Father wants us to. It is because the Holy Spirit
      loves both the Father and the Son that he comes into the world, not to speak primarily about
      himself, but to bear witness to them and to bring their common life to us.

    • Radagast says

      run….

    • You know, I almost posted a long story in the other thread about this but I chickened out 🙂 BUT, I have to respond to the BS that “marriages without submission just ended up in fights and divorce”. Such a lie. Lie lie lie. The opposite is more true in my experience. Oh it makes me so mad, this lie.

      In an abusive situation, submission is like gasoline on a fire. Trust me. I know.

      Read about the cycle of violence, there’s a part in there where the abused tries to be submissive and walk on eggshells. And it doesn’t stop the abuse, it increases it.

      Ok, off my soapbox now, sorry for the rant 🙂

  7. humanslug says

    Hey Mike, has anyone ever given any thought to the possibility of putting together a yearly retreat for imonkers? — you know, rent a campground or something where anyone who wants can come hang out for a weekend, meet you guys and some of our fellow bloggers, maybe have some guest speakers and discussion forums, as long as we leave lots of free time for mingling, fishing, hiking, and, of course, grilling lots of food.
    It’s just a thought. And I think it might be interesting to see how well imonkers can come together when we’re actually physically together.
    I suspect we’d have a blast and a very fruitful time in Christ.

  8. cermak_rd says

    I adopted a new dog! I’m not sure there’s any theological significance to it, but we have been a 3 dog family and our middle sized slot had been vacated since the death of our beloved companion, Jackie, a year and a half or so ago. But a no-kill shelter we know was having a surplus problem, so we met an incredible little gentleman. His name is Jax (amusingly, and my spouse, an atheist, was like, there must be a Dog). He’s a high energy guy and we are learning to play frisbee and fetch. He is getting along well with our behemoth dog (Dane mix), and our partially disabled (developmental abnormality–corkscrewing femurs) Jack Russell terrier. Both our also alumns of this shelter. He’s the closest thing we’ve had to a puppy in a long time (he’s maybe 8-9 months old).

    • That Other Jean says

      Congratulations! New dogs are so much fun! Good on you for getting a dog from a shelter, too. Jax is one lucky fellow. We have a new dog ourselves–Bug, a chihuahua we adopted from the cat-recently-turned-cat-and-dog shelter for which I volunteer. We lost two of our three elderly chihuahuas to congestive heart failure in the space of a month, and our remaining old lady was so miserable by herself that we had to find her a friend. He’s somewhere around nine years old, pretty laid back, and an absolute sweetheart. He even gets along with our cats. Indeed, there must be a Dog.

      • cermak_rd says

        Awww! He sounds cute too. Our Jackie died from congestive heart failure, too. I guess we were lucky enough to have her as long as we did. She was with us for at least 13 years and was maybe a year old when we got her. Jax is a darling. We were really not expecting him to be as affectionate as he is. He even likes to climb up in our laps…which is odd for a medium sized dog, not that we mind!

        Oh yes, always shelter or pound for us. We’ve been adopting for years (Jackie came from a shelter, too), and it usually means we skip the young puppy stage, which, since in years past, no one was home for 9 hours a day, was good! Too be honest, I’ve never found adopting adult dogs to cause less of a bond to form with us. It just takes a little more time, maybe.

        It sounds like your guy and your family all lucked out, too! Good on you for volunteering, too!

  9. Hi! I’ve been a longtime fan of the site though I don’t think I’ve ever posted (if I did it was years ago).

    I’ve gone back and forth on faith issues since – well, since I can remember knowing what “faith issues” meant!

    I’m a cradle Catholic (of the Romish variety); rejected that in high school for my charismatic/evangelical phase; rejected that in college for total atheism; rejected that in my early/mid 20s for paganism; and rejected that in my 30s for a return to Catholicism.

    I am now in my 50’s and have gone through that same cycle, with minor variations in the order (Catholicism – atheism – paganism – generic/some other form of Christianity – Catholicism) at least THREE TIMES since then.

    The funny thing is that now, every time I feel myself drifting into yet another round of “rinse and repeat”, I feel an odd and totally irrational feeling of safety. Like somewhere in my head, God/Jesus says, “OK, Chrissy, I get it – you need a break from the religion stuff! Go ahead, see what else is out there, have a little fun, and let me know when you’re ready to come back. I’ll still be right here!”

    And He always has been (so far!).

    I don’t know why this happens (maybe because I spend so much of my time reading – I work a desk job that involves a lot of downtime – and I have a Kindle – dangerous combination!!), but just wanted to say that I’m back in the “generic Christianity” phase right now. And it was re-reading the archives of Michael Spencer’s essays that brought me back this time.

    So thank you VERY much for keeping them online and easily available!

    (And if anyone else can identify with my struggles, even a little, please let me know, because it would really help to know I’m not the only person in the world who goes through this!)

    • You’re not alone!

    • My first thought was that He is not waiting for you when you go away, he is going with you – maybe even leading the charge. God is much larger than our meeting hall and our well worn King James Version. I think He is able to ‘hang’ in those alleys and byways. I’ve read a lot of psychology in my time and find Him dancing through those pages on a regular basis, whether the author invited Him or not.

      • Thanks, Rebekah!

        ChrisS, yes, I actually feel that way too. Because in every “phase” of my journey I seem to find Him lurking – in a group of hardcore online atheists banding together to do “whatever it takes” to save a woman who posted a suicide message on their forum (and they did!!); in a Wiccan who spends much of her free time volunteering at a nearby senior citizens’ home because “that might be me someday”; etc.

        I don’t always recognize Him at the moment I see Him but once I’m back “home”, I can look back and see that, like Dorothy, “I never really left it to begin with!”

    • humanslug says

      Sounds to me like your heart knows something that you’re head is having trouble with. And, yes, I’ve been though the belief-unbelief-belief cycle a few times myself.
      Still, I came to a point where I had to make a definitive mental choice — particularly regarding Jesus and who I believe He is — or else risk going nuts. And one way I’ve managed to stick to that decision is to not take the shifting landscape inside my head too seriously. Sure, various ideologies or philosophies may catch my interest now and again — and I believe I’m free in Christ to explore those mental avenues, but at the end of the day, I’ve made my choice, and I belong to Him.
      And from what you wrote Chrissy, I suspect that you do too. I’m not trying to preach at you, but maybe it’s time for you to own up to the truth that He is a real presence in your life, and He has been for a long time now. I think He would appreciate that, and I suspect He’ll become a lot more real to you if you do.
      As far as making a decision regarding some particular religious name brand of Christianity, I haven’t and I have no intention of doing so — and I don’t regard that as necessary for believing in or following Christ.

      • My problem is I *do* keep making that choice, that firm commitment – but it doesn’t *stay* firm.

        Hmm … is there such a thing as Viagra for the soul? 😉

        • humanslug says

          Truth be told, Chrissy, it would probably be more accurate to say that there was a point in my life when I made the definitive decision to try my best to get in the habit of choosing to believe whenever I manage to get around to thinking about such things. And, truth be told some more, I have to remake that choice just about every day — and, some days, I fail to make that choice at all.
          I guess we’ll both just have to rely on His promise to finish the work He started in us.
          And though it’s hard for me to see sometimes, He has done a lot more work than I generally realize or give him credit for.

        • humanslug says

          P.S.: Sorry if I came off like MegaFaith Man in that first response. If I’ve been even vaguely consistent in my faith over the past few years, then it’s something He has done in and through me — and not something I have attained through my own steam.

  10. Here’s something that I find interesting….. I’ve read in original I Monk posts about how Michael Spencer liked John Piper. And then you can almost detect that he’s becoming concerned about Piper drifitng toward fanaticism. I’d like to know what happened?

    When I was younger I used to be into John Piper big time. Many of my friends were also. In one of the earlier posts dealing with Christian Hedonism I saw that Micahel Spencer was concenred that no one was critiquing or criticiizng Piper. With the exception of Greg Boyd, and a couple of blogs like this I notice that doesn’t happen in Chrkstianity today.

    But getting back to the drifting toward fanatcism I wonder if that explains why John Piper went from writing a very pastoral response to September 11, to moving in a direction where he was declaring that tornadoes, the I-35 bridge collapse, etc.. were from God.

    Thoughts….?

    • Unsteady Connor says

      I think that as his audience grew broader, it came to be expected that Piper would have a response to any and every crisis. This is probably an extension of the unrealistic expectations many have for their own pastors, only magnified by the fact that Piper’s virtual flock numbers in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people who interact with his books.

      It’s not enough for him to be a pastor who was, on most topics, well-respected for his erudition and charity. Becoming a bestselling author transforms people to platforms, taking a pastoral heart and transposing it into a Talking Head.

      My two cents.

      • JoanieD says

        “Becoming a bestselling author transforms people to platforms, taking a pastoral heart and transposing it into a Talking Head.”

        Great way of putting it, Unsteady Connor!

      • Josh in FW says

        Well said. I look forward to reading your comments in future Imonk posts.

    • He initially had a lot of positive things to say about Mark Driscoll too.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Before (IMonk essay title) the “Long Slow Drive over the Edge.”

  11. I’ve been lurking here off and on since my husband introduced me to this site about five years ago, but my visits have picked up recently since I’m in a place of spiritual and vocational discernment. I’m an ordained pastor in the PC(USA) since January 2006. But, due to what I see as a departure from biblical orthodoxy that has taken place over the past several years, and especially the past few years (which I won’t go into here, because perhaps most people here know what those are?), I am likely leaving the denomination.

    Not a surprise, really. Christians leave churches and denominations all the time for other congregations, other denominations. But I suspect the surprise comes when I reveal to which church I’m likely headed.

    My husband and I are pretty sure we’re headed back to Rome. Here’s why.

    Whereas I carry the ordination of a church which has many gray areas in its witness of what it believes Jesus says and what it believes Jesus calls us to be and do (again, I won’t go into these unless someone specifically asks), the Catholic Church is unequivocal in its teachings. I know where it stands, and it isn’t likely to budge from that stance. Perhaps oddly, I find comfort in that.

    The other piece is this. My husband is also a pastor, and I watched him be beat up for well over a year by a group in his congregation which felt church was about getting what they wanted and getting what they believed handed to them, or picking up their marbles and going to play elsewhere. Which they did, for the most part, until Church 2 didn’t do it they way they wanted either and they came back to Church 1 (but only occasionally). And I know many churches and many Christians who live out their Christian witness in this way.

    Is this an inherent flaw in the Protestant DNA, that we by nature, split off when we don’t get our own way? That we, by nature, believe we have a monopoly on Truty? Where does the splitting off stop? Until there is the Church of Kim, Church of X, Church of Y? Shouldn’t the Church of which Christ is the head be about more than a consumerist enterprise, and shouldn’t there at least be an aspect of submission to it?

    • Going to Rome is a very brave thing considering the occupational consequences it will entail your family. I feel for your husband’s experience, I’ve never seen anyone beat their own like Protestants. But I would just hate for you to run to Rome seeking refuge only to have a repeat experience: People are still people there too. Though you do have a point, the conflict will be limited to personal and not ecclesial. I thought the same thing several times, but there were too many theological hurdles I couldn’t overcome to go that far. Lutheranism became a good balance for me. Have you also considered Eastern Orthodoxy? To our shame, Lutheranism and Anglicanism haven’t offered a competitive stability in teaching, except for possibly the confessional groups, which are a bit small and hard to find at times. But at least in the confessional groups (even more conservative Presbyterians), there is an intentional backlash against consumerist religion.

      • Thanks, Miguel, for your kind thoughts. It’s Interesting that you should mention the Eastern Orthodox church. We have a good friend who is a LCMS pastor. We have shared with him our struggle and he also suggested we look into Eastern Orthodoxy. I think that if/when we return to Rome, we will do it with the understanding that there are no perfect churches, and no perfect priests, at least until Christ returns to put everything right. Similar to what you have shared, there are hurdles with which I will need to reckon. One, is the Catholic theology of grace. Two, oddly enough considering my initial comment, is their ecclesiology. My LCMS friend mentioned the Eastern Orthodox’s leadership and governance by council as opposed to the Catholic Church’s by Pope. The former certainly resonates with me. In the “How many (insert denomination here) does it take to screw in a light bulb”, Presbyterians are always the ones who have to organize a committee first. But there is a good reason for that. We believe the decisions we make in community are more faithful than those we make on our own. As a colleague of mine said recently with tongue in cheek, “We believe our sin cancels each other out.” In reading so much Calvin (and some Luther), and in being so fiercely Presbyterian for almost two decades, I realize that in rebelling against Rome we might have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. I’m especially drawn to the Early Church and the Church Fathers, so I’m looking forward to making my home there during this decision process. I’m thankful that the RCIA classes are several months long. I’m going to try to not be the most annoying person in the class. 🙂

        • Actually, go ahead and BE the most annoying person in class. Not only does it mean you care and are paying attention, but you also may be the only one brave enough to state or ask WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS THINKING but are afraid to say……

    • Kim, go where the Lord calls you to be…and if it is here across the Tiber? Welcome, and here is a nice warm towel for after that long swim!! 🙂

      I am a cradle Catholic but did some wandering and searching as a young adult. I could find no other home that was centered on the same eleven men that Christ chose. The Church has survived, I believe due to Divine guidance and protection.

      “Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I build my Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”

      …and for me, this thought, combined with the joy and unexplainable “rush” I get when I realize that I get to take Christ HIMSELF into my very OWN body weekly, is enough to keep me here, forever.

      Just my thoughts and observations…..

      • Thanks, Pattie, for the hospitality! Funny, when my husband shares with the few people our struggle, he says, “We’re thinking of swimming the Tiber.”

        When you mentioned the Catholic Church’s focus on the disciples, that really resonated with me. A good friend of mine who went from the LCMS church to the Catholic Church shared with me that what has helped him is the focus on the eucharist. No matter if on a Sunday the music isn’t great, or the homily doesn’t soar, he can still look at the table and see the body and blood of Christ and partake. I’m not saying it nearly as eloquently as he did, but perhaps you get the gyst.

        Thanks for sharing your experience with me. Every conversation I have about this helps to crystallize the discernment.

    • Josh in FW says

      “Is this an inherent flaw in the Protestant DNA, that we by nature, split off when we don’t get our own way? That we, by nature, believe we have a monopoly on Truty? Where does the splitting off stop? Until there is the Church of Kim, Church of X, Church of Y? Shouldn’t the Church of which Christ is the head be about more than a consumerist enterprise, and shouldn’t there at least be an aspect of submission to it?”

      These are great questions. Despite my dissatisfaction with parts of my current Church home (dispensational/evangelical), I am investigating the other Traditions slowly from afar. A common comment from our head Pastor is, “This is not a perfect Church, but it’s a good Church. There is no perfect church.” Another common phrase is, “We all need a church home. There are many good churches in our city .” [those quotes are not precise, but are the best that I can remember] If I choose to change my church home, I don’t want to be one driven by personal preferences, but be lead by the Spirit (I’m still trying to figure out what that means).

  12. I’ve gotten the impression that there are many who lurk here but are shy to comment. Don’t be! I can’t imagine you’d regret joining the conversation, and it’s be a lot more fun for all if you’d throw in your two cents.

    • Josh in FW says

      I’m definitely one of those lurkers. The regular commenters are quite articulate. By the time I get to reading all the comments I find that over commenters have said what I was trying to articulate in a much better way than I would have been able to say it.

  13. There is something fundamentally disturbing about complimentarianism as a patriarchal system. Christianity is not strictly patriarchal. The incarnation demands a matriarchal element – but not to the extent that those pushing the co-redemtrix teaching or female deities believe. A Christian honors all women because our Savior was born of a woman. All women are therefore a living icon of the incarnation. Patriarchal teachings which reduce women to subservant roles diminish the significance of the incarnation. If you take away the incarnation, there is very little difference between Christianity and Islam, and the views of women become very similar.