November 24, 2020

Proverbs For Christianity’s Angry Young (and Old) Men

grouppc.jpg***Big Time Humor Alert*** Today, the Internet Monk Web Site ™ brings a special gift of proverbial, anecdotal and Zen-like wisdom as a gift for those angry young (and not so young) men who are burning down churches to make room for coffee shops.

Put on some punk rock, light the incense sticks and turn down the lights so I can see that Che poster in black light. Thank you.

(If you can’t remember these bits of wisdom, they will be available in my new book, Wisdom for Angry Guys Who Are Really Angry, coming to a bookstore near you.)

Lo, the Proverbs appeareth. (How can these things be, since I have not known a man? Seriously.)

He who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it. (Wait. How did that get in here?)

George Barna will surely refute- with unassailable statistical evidence- any book with his name on it within ten years of its publication.

Institutional churches, with all their problems, do most of the tangible good that Christians do in this world. (There’s another one.)

Jesus was an observant Jew who endorsed Judaism, complete with hierarchy, liturgy and song leaders. (What?)

The Quakers reinvented Christianity better than anyone since. Find a meeting house near you.

Even dogs know that buildings are not people.

Tithing is not unbiblical. It’s old covenant. Book selling and conference speaking, however, are biblical.

He who renounces baptism as pagan must also renounce using the names of the days of the week and the months of the year. Perhaps Monday could be Mclaren Day, Tuesday Wallis Day and so on.

He who says “the Bible must be read in context” usually means “If you want to understand the Bible, read it like me.” Therefore, proclaim your authority to your followers, take a new name and wear funny clothes.

Dressing up in church is a sin, unless the clothes are casual. In other words, if you wear a suit, you are a Pharisee, but if you wear $200 boots or anything in American Eagle, then Jesus doesn’t mind.

The sermon is pagan. The book that tells you the sermon is pagan is not.

No one should be the designated song leader. Instead, whoever is rude, loud and mentally ill should be allowed to lead. Do not discourage them, as this is hierarchical and pagan.

Restrooms are pagan. Do not use them.

Church should have no hierarchy at all. Please invite me to your conference where I won’t say this, or anything else.

Discipleship should not be mind-focused. In fact, if you comprehended this sentence with your mind, you are already off on the wrong foot. Back up, and try to get this without your mind getting in the way.

All routine in worship is wrong. In fact, follow the following suggestions to be truly Christian:

  • -Meet on different days of the week, and don’t tell anyone when.
  • -The same with where you meet. Keep ’em looking.
  • -Don’t use the Bible more than once every few weeks.
  • -Try out another religion entirely every so often, to break the routine.
  • Marriage is also pagan. Avoid it.

    Parenting is a hierarchy. In fact, so is child care of any sort. Jesus said let the children come onto me, so get them into your meetings.

    All of Paul’s commands to Timothy about the duties of pastors will be explained in a forthcoming, revolutionary, non-hierarchical book.

    Your objections to my wisdom are traditional and pagan. As are you. And your little dog.

    Now that you have my latest book explaining what Christianity and the church actually are, no more books, Bibles or meetings are necessary. Your questions betray your need for authority, and your elevation of me to the status of expert shows your sinful, pagan addiction to hierarchy and institutionalism. Now is the time to be silent, to renounce all focus on the mind, to seek to absorb my book in a non-institutional, not-my-senior-pastor way. So go. Be alone. Sit on the mountain. Eat my book and wait for the outcome.


    1. a simple bloggTRotter says

      Very Strong… Bordering on clever. Your one pair of cool eyeware away from a book deal it sounds like.

      Happy New Year

    2. I’m not smart enough to be offended. But I do have this stupid grin rapidly spreading across my face that threatens to break out into actual laughter.

      Ouch! Guffaws!

      Well said. And now I must go off and review a certain book.

    3. Van Til actually wrote this. If I delete it, his lawyers will eat me alive.

    4. Just what I needed, a good laugh with lunch.

      Thank you.

    5. Grin/actual laughter. Check

      Good to see someone keeping people in check with reality.

    6. I’ll buy it.

      Thankfully, the actual book, Pagan Christianity, doesn’t come close to matching some of the claims alleged to be therein.

      The authors write, repeatedly, that just because something has “pagan” origins doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Over and over.

      I read Trevin Wax’s review and wondered if we read the same book. He says the book claims “all routine is wrong”, and there should be “no hierarchy whatsoever”, and no one should ever dress up for church because it’s pagan, and “tithing is completely unbiblical” (the authors say it’s not a command for Christians, but an O.T. directive, which seems a fair discussion, just not quite as easy to dismiss as Trevin’s summary.)

      Strawman City. There’s a lot to be debated in Pagan Christianity. I don’t think it’s a very scholarly book. But addressing what it actually does say will probably be more fruitful.

    7. Brant, I appreciate your interaction. Obviously, those of us who have given our lives and continue to minister in the churches that Viola is criticizing will respond from our hearts. I’m 51 and have been in youth ministry for most of my life since I was 18. Most of that in large churches and schools. I will be totally open that I can never follow the emerging/house church movement as far as they want to go, even though I love and appreciate them. I’ve learned much from them. But I cannot repudiate my own life. That’s being honest. It may poison all I say, but it’s my life and where I put it. Those of you who have walked away from the institutional church have made a decision that comes from your hearts as well. We all make these choices and we all have to look ourselves in the eye and say “this is my life now.”

      I work at a 109 year old institution supported by institutions with millions of dollars. We have helped tens of thousands of students. We have flaws, flaws, flaws and more flaws. We are a grand mess, but that mess will not be solved by adopting the Campbell-Stone restoration movement of the 1830s, the Quaker movement of the colonial era or any version of “New testament Christianity” redone by emergers or anyone else.

      I believe there is one church. Immersed in history and culture. Swimming in it. From your back yard to Westminister cathedral, culture is inevitable. History is unavoidable. Institutionalism in some form is inevitable.

      I’d like to see all forms of the body appreciate the other. But I know that justification of the way one group does things almost inevitably comes with some critique saying other ways are “unbiblical.”

      Viola’s radical critique is needed. May God bless and use it. But Trevin Wax is right. In the end, it will be more disillusionment that the reinvention of the New Testament church that was promised turned out to be flawed and messed up just like every other church. And in the end, apathy, atheism and church authoritarianism benefit.

      As I’ve said before, let’s learn how to change in healthy ways.

      Respect and appreciate you as always.


    8. Restrooms are pagan. Do not use them.
      Go on the floor instead.
      Or in the street.

    9. Thanks for making me laugh out loud! Terrific post…

    10. After reading this, I recall the scene in the 1976 movie “Network,” where newscaster Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is summoned by network executive Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty). Jensen chastizes Beale for meddling with “the primal forces of nature,” and proceeds to lecture him on the real world, where, in effect, there are no nations, but only “one holistic system of systems, one vast, interacting, interwoven, multinational, multivaried dominion of dollars.” Jensen goes on to tell Beale that he has chosen him to preach the evangel of business to all that we may have a perfect world. Beale reacts to his “election” by saying, “I have just seen the face of God.” Jensen replies, “You just might be right, Mr. Beale.” So have some apparently responded after reading said book.

      By the way, as you mentioned the sermon as being “pagan,” I saw a 280+ page book at Cokesbury the other day on preaching without notes. Of course, I now know that the revenue from selling the book isn’t pagan at all. Does it really take 280+ pages to learn how to preach without notes? 🙂

    11. I nearly choked on my tongue laughing at this. Brutally to the point. You may not have hit every point head-on, but you brilliantly mirrored Viola’s tone.

    12. So are all those pastors out there who felt sincerely called into a life of ministry misguided or failing to discern the Holy Spirit.

      Frankly, the pagans have a lot more fun in church – sex, wine, etc. If Apollo is the one calling me into ministry, I’d appreciate it if someone would straighten me out now.

    13. Oh, Michael, I love ya’!

    14. You know, considering all their complaints against conformist Christianity, why is it that all these folks and their churches are so bloody similar?

      (Other than the fact that they’re all reading one another’s books — and Relevant magazine — for talking points.)

    15. Two notes:

      First, I think I know that band in the picture you posted.

      Second, I can empathise a great deal with the “angry young man” mentality that you presently lampoon, but I have also come out of my own hurts and frustrations with the established order of things to see a larger picture, one where despite its failures, the church is still used to bring unparalleled goodness to a world desperate and hurting for its Savior. These made me laugh, as I easily see myself in them. They also made me see things that I certainly hope I’ve gotten over, but in all likelihood, I haven’t. How embarassing.

      @ K.W. Leslie – I’ve been wondering about that for years. Your observation above all else is probably the number one reason I’ve stayed suspicious of the whole movement.

    16. Spitting out my lunch FUNNY! I think this is the funniest piece I’ve ever seen @ IM.

    17. No Jenny, my piece on why I’m afraid of Mary will be my funniest. (jn)

    18. Good Lord! Two in one day?! I must say, I’m glad that I wasn’t eating at the computer when I saw that one at the BHT; that was creepy HILARIOUS Michael. I’m going to have to show the children!

      … I had to note the wee bit of irony MPoppy looking a little “apparisionistic” with her umbrella there floating in the air…BOO! ;P

    19. “Historians have long held that
      if we do not remember the past, we are doomed to repeat it.” ‘Pagan Christianity’ pg. 3. Funny, I thought it was all around man of letters, Georges Santayana, who was not a historian, but an academic philosopher, who wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” in his book ‘Reason in Common Sense’. I think that a debatable proposition, anyway.

      Maybe a deeper grounding in actual Church history would alleviate the need for tomes like Viola’s-though the irony of the name and the subject of the book are not lost on me. Heck, even a basic grasp of the history and development of liturgy would cover most of this ground. As a Catholic I fully recognize that the Mass we celebrate is different from what we see in the N.T. Nonetheless, their are many with structural elements that are the same. The Didache and St. Justin Matryr are also useful in this regard. All this smacks of a slightly different Elaine Pagels approach, maybe on course one or two degrees off her heading. To assert that the Church basically got it wrong in fundmental ways is just not a tenable position.

    20. Chris Stiles says

      These days Screwtape gets to dictate church policy:

      “You will find that a good many Christian-political writers think that Christianity began going wrong, and departing from the doctrine of its Founder, at a very early stage. Now this idea must be used by us to encourage once again the conception of a “historical Jesus” to be found by clearing away later “accretions and perversions” and then to be contrasted with the whole Christian tradition. In the last generation we promoted the construction of such a “historical Jesus” on liberal and humanitarian lines; we are now putting forward a new “historical Jesus” on Marxian, catastrophic, and revolutionary lines. The advantages of these constructions, which we intend to change every thirty years or so, are manifold. In the first place they all tend to direct men’s devotion to something which does not exist, for each “historical Jesus” is unhistorical.”

    21. Why do we need this dichotomy? Burning down churches to make room for coffee shops? Who is even doing that? I appreciate your honesty that you are defending your life’s work, but that mean you need to tear down the work of other people’s lives? I’m tired of the battles. The institutional church is obviously doing things that are great. You know this and Frank Viola knows this. Not-church churches are doing equally terrific things in a different setting. You know this and Frank Viola knows this. Some folks need to find a different way. Do they deserve to be mocked for it? I invoke Rodney King.

    22. I invoke the “humor” alert in the first sentence, which actually means “the post is humorous.”

    23. He who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it.

      Of course, the same goes for math, science, and English lit. 😉

    24. Fair enough. But comedy is also pagan, probably.

    25. funny, I had to read it to my wife, as an equal of course, neither of us wanting to lead the singing right now. Thanks to you and Trevin for the insights. The book is on my very long list of books that I want to read, but not at the top. I kind of feel guilty for not reading it right away, I need to know if my guilty feeling is pagan. Thanks.

    26. Michael,

      I work at a 2000 year old institution supported by the New Testament and hijacked by institutions with millions of dollars who have “helped tens of thousands of students”.

      I am 53 years old, and have never worked in ‘youth ministry’, but have often poked fun at it for many years. My bad, I guess; should have just prayed for you guys!

      Sunday school was the two-century-old idea of newspaperman Robert Raikes, who sought to teach reading and writing to London’s street waifs who were forced to work in the factories all week and didn’t have opportunity for school on any other day.

      So what does the man-made ‘church’ up and do with the thing? Why turn it into TWICE the zoological specimen…taking in all ages, and divvying them up by gender, age group, etc…Sunday school!

      But try to reason with today’s institutional Christian about this silliness — this palpable, actual lunacy dressed up as serious Church business! — and you will get nothing but a snide remark. For preaching the gospel once delivered unto the saints, the ‘mere Christian’ is now dismissed with, “Oh we have flaws, flaws, flaws and more flaws! We are a grand mess! No such thing as a perfect church, you know!!? But that mess will not be solved by adopting the Campbell-Stone restoration movement of the 1830s, the Quaker movement of the colonial era or any version of “New testament Christianity” redone by emergers or anyone else.”

      Brother, please. For God’s sake, then; if you’re just 51 and set in stone, SAY so. I was once a captive of the Vatican, and they at least have the chutzpah to say “this is how we’ve always done it, and we have no intention of changing. Get lost, goofball.”

      Have chutzpah, my dear monk!

      Just kidding; I don’t know anything about this “emerging” stuff, but institutions are human nature on collective parade. They are thus incapable of reform, in se.

      Individuals are not. No matter *what* you’ve been doing since you were 18, bro.


    27. Your timing is almost scary (again!!).

      I just picked up a copy of Pagan Christianity (from the library because I am a poor and cautious man). I have only gotten through the first 50 pages or so, but the tickle of warning in the back of my brain was brought to the fore with your post.

      Maybe you saved me the time I would have spent reading the rest. But probably not. I am a literary masochist at heart.

      I did find one quote that was worth the time spent so far. It was something to the effect that the mission of the church was to “mutually encourage one another to build a community that displays Christ to the powers and principalities of the world.” I thought that was as good a one sentence summary as a person could find.

    28. Bob Sacamento says


      Thank you.

      I guess I should read “Pagan Christianity” before I take sides, but the pretty informed guess I can make as to its contents, and your terrific post here have overwhelmed my attempts to be objective. Three cheers for the institutional church. Thanks.

      I lost count long ago of the number of times I heard: “It’s time we dumped all the mess that has accumulated in the church over the centuries — the dead tradition and stuffy hierarchy — and get back to being what the church should be.” The nineteenth century revivalists said it. Along with the nineteenth century fundamentalists. And the twentieth century pentecostals. And the neo-evangelicals. And the Jesus children. And the seventies charismatics. And the eighties church-growth seeker sensitives. My little campus Bible study group said the same thing in my college days so many years ago. And now, the emerging/ent churches are saying it too. Thank goodness they came along just in time to save us all.

      I know the church has problems. But sometimes I think its number one problem is all its members who know what the church’s number one problem is. Of course, if I were to believe that, I would be contradicting myself, but I still think there’s some truth in there.

      Thanks again for a great post.

    29. Jerry Willhite says

      Here guys – I paraphrased 1 Cor 11:26 to match your viewpoint. Please let me know if you’d like to change or edit something out. I can’t believe Viola would question how we do church when the scripture is so clear !!!! Sorry I picked you to terrorize Mr Monk – you were at the top of my search results, and it seemed like you have a sense of humor.

      What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, the song leader has a hymn, and the Pastor a word of instruction, or a revelation, If any of you really believe in a tongue and has the guts to try it out, then make sure the Pastor has the interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.

      If anyone needs to interpret what it was the pastor really said, then let his wife stand up and give the interpretation.

      If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. (Oh don’t we all wish)

      The pastor should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the hearer should write it down – so that everyone may be instructed, encouraged and talk about it in the restaurant after the meeting.

      The spirits of the laity are subject to the control of the clergy.

      For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, only the Pastor and the worship leader is allowed to speak. And the worship leader can only say what has been pre-edited so that it looks like we are all in this together.

    30. Jerry Willhite says

      Big mistake on my post – correction – 1 Cor 14:26 not 1 Cor 11:26 – though I’d love to paraphrase 1 Cor 11 for you too – it’s almost as humerous as 1 Cor 14.

    31. A friend (church employee with great health plan and expense account) recently handed me the book by Viola and Barna.
      “It’s gonna blow you away man,” he said. “You’re gonna find yourself nodding your head and seeing so much you agree with…”

      Okay. It blew me away only in one sense. After spending an entire evening with the book I just kept picturing Senator Joseph McCarthy in that old b/w broadcast. The army’s attorney general finally says, “Have you no decency? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” J. Welch, 1954.

      To the point. I found the book wreckless and irresponsible. Viola adds footnotes to appear scholarly. Not so much, Frank.

      Loved the review Michael. I especially enjoyed the Quaker reference.

      I may well have nodded my head three or four times. Overall, I felt as though I was watching my new car get scrubbed with a wire brush. My car was dirty, but what the …

    32. – – – = = = H i ! _ G a y s _ T h a n k _ y o u _ f o r _ s u c h _ a n _ i n f o r m a t i v e _ w e b s i t e . . V e r i _ i n t e r e s t i n _ a n _ e a y _ t o _ c o m p r e h e n d – T h a n x ! – – = = A l l , N i c e _ s i t e , _ I _h a v e _ b e e n _ s e e i n g _ s o m e _ r e a l l y i n t e r e s t i n g _ c o m m e n t s . . . _ g o i n g _ t o _ t e l l _ m e _ f r i e n d _ l o u i s e _ a b o u t _ t h i s _ s i t e ! ! = = = – – –