November 26, 2020

Who? Me? How I Became A Pariah in The Reformed Blogosphere

monkcomp.jpgSeveral weeks ago, the Internet Monk research department received one of those requests that, well…in all honesty, they decided was probably best to just lose somewhere on the desk. Not everything I request from my dedicated researchers is worth their time our your readership, and I appreciate their interest in my well being. This request, however, was important to me, and after allowing time for something to surface in response, I had to make one of those phone calls where I threw a hissy fit, slapped a few employees around, and finally got my way.

Today, the document has appeared, and is now here, to enlighten all of you who have been asking yourself that question that won’t go away: How did you tick them off so bad?

I’m glad you asked. Now, live, direct and without commercial interruption, the IM Research department brings you: Who? Me? How I Became A Pariah In The Reformed Blogosphere (Complete with additional material.)

#1 I wrote “I’m Not Like You.”

It’s right there for all of you to read, and frankly, I still can’t figure out what’s such a big deal about this essay. It was written after some of my stuff on inerrancy (more on that later) and seemed, by some, to be an “attack” on Calvinists. As any average fifth grade reader can see, the essay attacks no one, and simply states….why I am different from other people. It is provocative, to get readers to think, which isn’t a new thing on my site.

It was this essay that James White autopsied at his site, More about that later, as well, but on to #2.

#2 I announced that I treated Roman Catholics as my fellow Christians.

There are a couple of essays involved in this, but the main one was, “The River Is Deep.

I grew up in strongly anti-catholic circles, but I was hardly prepared for what this essay got me from the Truly Reformed (more about them later.) As I’ve been told by many letter writers since, accepting Catholics as Christians is an unpardonable sin in a lot of fundamentalist circles, so this was a biggee.

I know this puts me in the minority, but then my life puts me in the minority, doesn’t it? It’s why I am living mine and you are living yours, and God will judge us both. If I should have treated my Catholic friends as non-Christians, then God will let me know.

#3 I don’t like James White.

Let me be really clear on this one, because it comes up a lot and chances are the mention of his name will get me back on the autopsy table.

I had never read a book by James White or visited his web site for more than a momentary glance when he picked up “I’m not like you” and carved it up like a thin sliced ham in several very long posts over three days in April of this year. The things White wrote about me, my ministry, my school, my church, my personality and my life were so out of the blue that I almost quit blogging on the spot. It was a “drive by experience” like none I’d ever been through. I’ve never read anyone, before or since, who tore another blogger apart line by line with such obvious relish.

What prompted this? Did I do a comic book? Nope. Pope John Paul II died, and Tim Challies posted a comment from White that said people who were talking about the dead pope as a great Christian were wrong, because he wasn’t a Christian. I reposted this, with a comment, pointing out White as a typical reformed teacher who did not believe JPII was a Christian. I said that I thought his assessment was pretty cold on such short notice.

That was it. I assume that was all true, I didn’t call any nasty names or make any degrading comments.

Well, Katie….bar the door.

For the next week, White carved me up like a turkey. White is an excellent writer and a smart guy, and he tore me apart. He denounced me as liberal, postmodern, unfit for ministry, an embarrassment, mentally ill, etc. Did I react to this? Uh….yeah. I did, as best I could. I shut down IM. I said “Ouch” a lot. I whined a bit.

The real problem erupted when fans of White (not White and not at his request) began dominating the BHT comments, leading those comments to be permanently shut down. Later, some of those same fans went to extremes that I will not repeat, but that were scary and harassing. At least one of these people continues to send profane and abusive material to me and others. (I want to be very clear that White had nothing to do with any of those people, as far as I know, though apparently, I am far from the only one to get the same treatment. I don’t think my fans are quite as devoted.)

Do I like James White? No. He likes people who I like, and who like me and know him, but the biggest struggle I have in my life as a Christian right now is what is in my heart towards James White. I deal with it daily and it grieves me. I wish we could sit down and work it out, but I don’t know what I would say and I don’t really want to have to deal with the emotions of the whole episode. I support White in much of what he does, and I know he is a good and decent man. But I’m still reeling.

4. I criticized Phil Johnson. Twice. At least.

Phil Johnson is an elder at Grace Community Church and John Macarthur’s right hand man at Grace To You, arguably the classiest radio ministry in the world. He’s a fine teacher and preacher, a webmaster for the Hall of Fame, a creative, humorous blogger, a fellow who shoots straight in a personal correspondence, and a guy who I posted critical posts about. Twice.

While I have my issues with Macarthur’s unique brand of Reformed Baptist New Puritan Dispensationalism, I’ve got shelves of his tapes and I’ve told him that I owe him a lot for helping me keep my head on straight after seminary. I also know that the Grace Community Church/Master’s Seminary Community has a reputation for “bulldogish” fighting in any theological matter.

The BHT is a theological bar, and we critique and comment on lots of various theological banter. We will post and comment on dozens of books, sermons and blog posts every day. That’s our fun. It isn’t a solo blog. We all don’t agree, and we like to see where a discussion goes. We don’t talk about our gardens much. We talk a lot of seminary coffee shop stuff. So one day, I posted concerning Phil’s chapter in Fool’s Gold critiquing N.T. Wright. I thought Phil was doing something that I had critiqued a lot on the BHT, i.e. analyzing Wright via one book and several passages, rather than reading the main Wright corpus. I defended Wright and had nothing good to say about Phil’s critique. (This was not the first or the last time I made similar posts in regard to Wright.)

Phil took offense and wrote me a letter, listing what he’d read. I still disagreed with his critique, but it was straight forward, we parted amiably and I apologized for misrepresenting his research.

Later, not having gotten enough the first time around, I also posted fairly sarcastically on the matter of academic credentials. I’ve walked this plank before, so I know how people feel. Phil didn’t like that, and I understand completely.

From there, it’s just been one repeated playground fight after another. The BHT prods at Phil irregularly, and Phil has used me and the BHT as fodder at his blog as often as possible. Usually, he is citing something said at the BHT, and he has posted positive posts about some things I’ve written. More typical, however, is today’s post which features 1) humor that is over my head, dealing with abused kids every day, as I do and 2) two outright falsehoods: No one at the BHT threw a fit about Johnson’s previous post; no one at the BHT questioned God’s sovereign control of the weather. Of course, if I say anything about not liking this game, I’ve proved every point…so shhhhhhhh.

The tragedy here is that I know, from personal correspondence, that Phil and I would and could get along. But, instead, our relationship deteriorates daily, and at this point, is a spiritual challenge to me on almost the same level as White. I should want to see these men and pray with them, and that I can’t sincerely want that is a tragedy. I say, with shame, that these men who ought to be my brothers are people that, today, I don’t believe I could converse with.

5. I frequently use the name “Truly Reformed” for a particular kind of Calvinist.

I didn’t invent that term, but I get some mileage out of it, I’ll admit. Who are the “TRs?”

They are Calvinists who believe they have the ownership papers on the Reformation, even though they don’t agree on the confessions, baptism, the regulative principle, the designated hitter, etc.

They ride the Reformed range as sheriffs on the rest of the Reformed community, especially on the blogosphere.

They regularly announce what Reformed people must believe about non-essentials (usually by making the matter an essential.)

They go well beyond the language of the confessions into their own interpretations.

The Baptists among them think the Covenant theology types are bad Calvinists. (No….that’s not a joke.)

A lot of them are mean. They may be a lot of good things, too, but they are mean and they tell you they came to fight and win. Some of them- not all- have no problem going to really extreme lengths to verbally punish those who aren’t “reformed” as they see it.

Thanks to them, I now no longer call myself a Calvinist of any kind. It really seems to annoy some of the Truly Reformed that I am a Christian at all, but I can’t help that. Predestination and all. Complain to God.

6. I don’t use the term inerrancy.

In several essays, I’ve explained why I don’t use a word no reformed confession requires me to use. You can read about it in the IM archives, in essays like this one.

I’m a Bible believer of the highest order, but I’m not a literalist on this modernistic view of scripture. Sorry.

7. Some of the Truly Reformed think I’m postmodern.

I have no idea what postmodern means. I’ve written a little bit of my confusion on IM, and you can read it for yourself. If I am, then fine. What does THAT mean? And what’s my alternative? Modernism?

8. I’ve taken the side of the NPP, N.T. Wright, Brian Mclaren and the “Emerging Church” in some discussions.

These are all a bit different, but I toss them out together because the common point was that I generally side with a broad theological discussion. I have my limits, but none of these folks get past them. I consider them all good Christians, and I support their contribution to the conversation. (Emerging word.)

Defending either Wright or Mclaren for any reason sets off bells and whistles all over the place these days, and I can’t resist the fireworks. I don’t agree with Mclaren about much of anything, but this idea that he’s some kind of devil is silly.

9. I wrote an essay that praised- and modestly criticized- John Piper.

I finally had to take it down, as the Truly Reformed were getting bizarrely up in arms over my mild suggestions that Piper might feed some kinds of fanaticism with his intense, unique kind of Calvinism. I love Piper and no one has done me more good. But it’s all or nothing in the Reformed Blogosphere.

10. I support Public Schools….and Christian schools….and homeschools.

Supporting public schools is…ahem…not a popular position with many evangelicals. Enough said. You can explore that at IM, too.


  1. Michael,
    I have been a lurker over at the BHT for some time now, as well as a reader of your posts here. I do read Phil’s page, and occasionally peak in on Mr. White. I have only seen the occasional piece in this whole drama, and frankly I don’t see what the big deal is for James or Phil. But I suppose it will continue to be a blogdom debate, and those debates will be debated, and so on and so forth.
    For what it is worth, I don’t always agree with you or the rest of the rabble at the tavern (please buy them a round on me), but I do enjoy what I read and the spirit of conversation that you (and they) promote. Im not trying to brown nose or anything, but Imonk and the BHT are two of the inspirations I had to start blogging. I appreciate your thoughts, your humor, and your honesty. Thank you, and please don’t let the quiet mob push you out of this God given forum. .
    “You know what I say?
    What Grand-pa?
    SCREW ‘EM!”- from the movie Angus

  2. Rabble?

    When did it get that classy? 🙂

    Since we let Josh back in and gave him a bunch of Lutherans for backup, who could agree with us on anything?

  3. You’re correct in saying you deserve some credit for the ten points you mention, but also for the backlog of excellent material you’ve written over the years here at IM. I’ve spent the last few weeks reading all of it, and it’s really good.

    However, having visited the Boar’s Head Tavern site and James White’s blog to see what he said about you, I think BOTH of you take things too far. The nonsense that gets posted at BHT is (as you say) off-the-cuff, coffee shop talk but that doesn’t excuse it, does it? I understand it’s a group blog, but that just makes matters worse.

    I can’t help but think that the easy ability to post anything is what drives these problems. If we were standing there talking to people, I would hope that no one would talk this way. Not James White or the BHT crowd.

    So I agree with Phil’s point on this.

    And as a confession, I myself have often been embarrassed about stuff I’ve posted.

  4. >The nonsense that gets posted at BHT is (as you say) off-the-cuff, coffee shop talk but that doesn’t excuse it, does it? I understand it’s a group blog, but that just makes matters worse.

    You know, this is really a rather amazing statement. Is it just the nature of reformed bloggers to be fearful of a conversation that isn’t strictly controlled? I mean, what is the problem with Anglicans, Lutherans, Disciples, Baptists, Presbys, etc etc etc all talking about theology?

    I appreciate that you’ve read IM, but can you explain this? Its like me going to my students and saying that I like it when they are all sitting in class looking at me, but when they go outside and talk to each other where I am not in control, I don’t like it because it is so much “nonsense.”

    I mean the sidebar says its a conversation. Sit and listen. It doesn’t say this is church or a class.

    I cannot figure out this criticism of the BHT. Resentment of a group blog because of what? Diversity? “Error?”

  5. Someone just wrote and said that I remove all critical comments here. That’s not true, except in cases where profanity or racist language occurs.

    They also bring up the BHT comments being closed. I remind you that the BHT was around for years before comments and they were an experiment at my request, but the other patrons hated them before and during the experiment. We would like them to return, and are working on a way to do so, but the level of moderation needed is daunting.

    I didn’t put this piece up as a “fan piece,” in case you didn’t figure that out.

  6. “I cannot figure out this criticism of the BHT. Resentment of a group blog because of what? Diversity? ‘Error?'”

    Look, I’m a teacher too. Both my students and I say things that we wouldn’t want remembered or broadcasted because they might be in error or they might not have been well-stated, cordial, etc. But in a cafe or classroom, that type of talk just evaporates. Nobody is writing it down and broadcasting it.

    Group blogs like BHT are doing just that. Everytime a person has a brainfart and then posts it, it’s there for the whole world to see. And Google makes sure it never disappears. That powerful.

    So I think Phil is right to call you on what happens over there.

  7. I’m still lost.

    How much does Phil moderate his comments? He says on his blog that the discussion is open unless its patently offensive. I assume that the BHT fellows could go over there and say what they want. What’s the difference?

    And what exactly is Phil’s oversight of the BHT? Is it different from my oversight of Pyromaniac? Am I right to post about what needs to be corrected over there?

    The fact that people overhear the conversation means I can’t say James White is an exanple of a reformed teacher who believes Catholics are lost? Because of Google I can’t read and review Phil’s work on Wright?

    Exactly what errors are being perpetuated on the BHT that we need to elimninate?

  8. As I said above, I enjoy the conversation over at the BHT… and personably, I don’t mind the lack of comments. If you have something to say to someone, all the emails are on the side bar… email them. I did that with Annie just this morning.
    One thing about it being a conversation: things are going to get posted there that might be “nonsense” as Dave C. said, but it is off the cuff and much more reactionary than a thought out, edited post. Now, I am not saying that what ever is said there is ok and shouldn’t be reacted to. I have see posts at the BHT be edited for content, and have seen people apologize for being out of line. But, come on… its a bunch of *humans* talking.
    We all say stupid things, especially about theology, and we all defend our own positions and opinions. You can not fault people for their ideas, you can only interact with them.
    And just incase any one was wondering… none of us have orthodoxy down pat and have the box that can fit God into our top shelf closet space. What Mr. Beaver said is true, “Of course He’s not safe! But He is good.” And we *humans* are free to interact with Him and thought about Him… it is what we are called to do (love God with all our heart, *mind*, and body). We ask questions, get it wrong, defend our wrongness, and a week later are the ones pointing out how stupid the position we had last week is. Let conversation be conversation… but let posts that are thought out, crafted, edited, and claim to be in the Christian spirit be full of love, correction, exhortation, and grace.
    Sorry about being such a comment hog, but I do rather feel a mite strongly about this. Ok, Ill shut up now.

    Imonk, Good on ya!

  9. Good grief.

    If you want the “Wild West” at BHT, then fine. But don’t whine when others call you on it or when their comment sections become similar in response.

    You can have one of two things: 1. a free-for-all atmospehere in which anything goes, or 2. you can call for restraint all around (including BHT).

    But you can’t have it both ways. You’re a smart guy. Choose.

  10. Hmmm…like maybe the BHT rules?

    Bet I’ve got bigger rules than (you name the blog.)

    I’m waiting for the specific discussion I need to restrain. Is there a confession I need to post? WCF? Macarthur’s? White’s?

    Should I forbid a certain denomination from the bar? No Jews? Catholics? Lutherans?

    I’m not whining. I am asking you to tell me what I am supposed to STOP from happening at the BHT.

  11. Keep those freaking Jews out!

  12. Michael,
    I’m not going to wade through the dozens and dozens of posts that get made there everyday just to show you specific examples.

    Like I said, you’re a smart guy. You’ll figure it out eventually.

    Take care and keep up the good work here.

  13. OK, Dave, so why don’t other non-Reformed blogs get the same amount of flak from James White and Phil Johnson? Over at my blog, we’re constantly saying all kinds of heretical stuff about baptismal regeneration and the like. Where’s my hatemail? Why does the iMonk have to bear the brunt of it? No thought has appeared on the BHT substantially different from anything you might find on your average Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist, Emergent, or generically Protestant blogs. Yet no one else has been so specifically lambasted as squirting the seed of demonic heresy into the pristine uterus of the Christian blogosphere. Why iMonk specifically?

  14. *gack*

    I think the Lutherans have to go!!


    I hoped for at least one specific thing we need to restrain at the BHT.

    If anyone can help me with what Dave is talking about, I am listening.

  15. I’m going to disgrace myself and earn some ire from your detractors, but I love BHT and IM. I unabashedly love your cheerful, inquisitive examinations of issues that evangelicals and Reformed need to address. I love the play at the Tavern, and the substance. Are there not to be safe places anywhere to question one’s tradition ? Does “semper reformanda” have real content to it if one can’t ask questions, if one cannot sift books for the good as well as the bad?

    You would love my beloved professor, Richard Pratt. A whole bunch of folks, including the Jolly One, have had our lives immeasurably enriched by Richard’s life and teaching. He freed us to be Reformed folk who love Jesus over all, and included in that “all” are the systems of humans. We all depend on systems and there’s no getting around thinking in a community and tradition, but our finite and fallen minds and hearts are humble in our recognition of our finitude and fallenness. Systems we cannot escape, and indeed we should cherish them, but cherishing includes (for the Reformed) asking questions about the system with our brothers.

    I’m grateful for what you read, what you say, the questions you ask, and your spirited goodwill (that juxtaposition on purpose).

  16. Return to hiding, GL. No one will know.

  17. Mark Whittinghill says


    I just want to say thanks for inviting me into the BHT. It has helped me greatly to grow in Christ. I hope that all this nonsense doesn’t get you down.

  18. Thanks Mark. I am certainly not fishing for compliments with all this going on in New Orleans.

  19. Mark Whittinghill says

    I know you weren’t. Just felt like going on record.

  20. I’m ex-RC and ex-SBC, now an Anglican (hey, it really is the “middle way” for some of us). But I read your sites because they’re the most consistently orthodox and meaty stuff in the Christian blog ghetto (in the literal sense of that word). I’ve never considered myself “Reformed” in any sense, but maybe I am and just didn’t know it. Piper was required reading in some of my SWBTS classes, and I’ve been a devotee ever since. Anyway, the thing I appreciate most here is the absolute avoidance of compartmentalized, polarized theology. Intelligent, reasoned mere Christianity–can’t beat that with a stick.

  21. Sheesh, I take a break from IM and BHT for a few months, come back and find the whole thing blowing up again.

    Like Stan and Kyle, I think I’ve learned something today. I’m actually wondering how much the medium contributes to this – ie: is there something inherent in the blogosphere that encourages these sorts of “forthright discussions”?

    It would be wonderful if Phil and Michael could sit down and work things out. But they can’t.

    I think that the sort of relationships that develop between bloggers are probably geared towards the negative. We are attracted to blogging because of our ability to write and think and express it in a written form. But writing can only communicate so much. We don’t get clues from body-language, vocal intonation and so on.

    I have to admit that I felt quite isolated the last time I came along and engaged in discussions here. I had spent quite a few months defending Michael against lots of critics, but found that this did not mean anything when I started to disagree with him myself.

    So I’ve decided that politeness and niceness and humility need to be overcommunicated whenever I engage in online discussion. I’d like to think that every potential person I disagree with is actually important and should be treated well.

  22. I have not spent any time at BHT, and perhaps I should before jumping to conclusions here, but I have been reading IM for a couple months now (including spending some hours reading past posts) and participated in a few conversations. My impression is that this medium really IS a difficult one in which to have reasonable “debates”. I have frequently found the conversation quickly degrades into misquotes, misrepresentations, and accusations of people’s motives, etc. Seems everyone in these forums considers themselves an “expert.”

    Now, having said all that, I have to say that my impression of Michael is one of someone who is sincere, gracious, and very willing to discuss things, but who is very sensitive, too. He has feelings like the rest of us, and due to being a very well-read blog, he gets a lot of hate mail.

    I don’t know Michael personally, but I know that I sometimes have to keep in mind whenever reading his or anyone else’s blog that they are a real person, not an inanimate computer. Therefore, I temper my responses to things with which I disagree, and I also do my best to read between the lines of things that Michael says to try to catch the full spirit behind them. Judging from the comments this blog usually gets, it seems a lot of people feel like they are typing to an inanimate object, and therefore can just say whatever they want to without respect for feelings or even their own possible misunderstandings.

    I guess I’m rambling, but just to say that I appreciate Michael’s input in this world of blogging, even though I often wish he had other views! But then again, I’m not a TR, so I guess my opinion won’t soften any of the blows….

    steve 🙂

  23. Steve:

    I actually get almost no hate mail. It’s the blogosphere that’s been the critical venues.

  24. I was using the term “hate mail” to refer to the comments on the blogs, etc. I didn’t mean it as limited specifically to actual email or postal mail. I should have put it in quotes.

    steve 🙂

  25. Ahh….even IM has had very little “hate.” Certainly, plenty of disagreement, as it should be, but hardly anyone crosses the line into personal attacks over here. In fact, the TRs think I edit these comments, and I haven’t removed 50 comments in 5 years of writing with feedback on the IM board or here. I’ve banned seven people in the history of this site.

    The BHT was a different matter. We had no comments for over a year. Then we opened them optionally, then by default and with the last five on the sidebar.

    Ugh. When White autopsied me, the comments were overrun with people attacking the entire BHT in a way that the comments were killing the blog. So I gave in and we shut them off. But make no mistake…the regular commenters were great, and we miss them.

    But, as Jim noted last night, the TRs labor under the illusion that the BHT is a reformed seminary or something. It’s crazy. I mean its loony to look at the most diverse theological discussion on the web and say “It’s dangerous because it is so unreformed. Someone commended Wright. Take control NOW.” But that’s what we got. You couldn’t have an open conversation, because the TR commenters were acting like their church was under attack in every discussion.

  26. Sheesh, I guess I just can’t communicate today at all. I didn’t say IM specifically!! First you misunderstood my term “hate mail” (as if I had access to your mail box and could see what emails you get! hehe) and now you misunderstood what I meant by “blogs”. I was referring to all the stuff you were talking about in your post and the things that I have read (I had stumbled upon White’s “autopsy” several weeks ago) on other blogs, including Pyromaniac, etc.

    But you seem to have missed the whole point of my original comment, which was that I actually appreciate the majority of the things you say, even when I disagree with your POV and that I think we all need to remember that there are humans on the other side of these screens.

    I think I’ll just go back to lurking. Much harder to be misunderstood! 😉

    steve 🙂

  27. Brian Pendell says

    I personally don’t think that the medium is the problem. The people are.

    Backbiting, misrepresentation, gossip, unfairness were issues that Paul dealt with back in the day. People who are immature IRL aren’t any more mature on blogs.

    For my part, it helps if you never write anything in a blog about someone you aren’t perfectly willing to say to their face. It’s amazing how more tempered one’s comments are when you write as if talking directly to the person and not cutting them to shreds behind their back. I have been commenting on blogs and participating in public fora for five years and have not had any problem being polite — but then, I act as if I’m talking to real people, not to internet ghosts.

    Regards to the BHT — the one complaint I have is that my application to join (sent to has not elicited a response. I suspect I may have sent it to the wrong place or something. That, or it has been seen and Mike just hasn’t had the time or the energy to reply “No” 🙂

    Respectfully, but somewhat tongue-in-cheek,

    Brian P.

  28. Michael.

    I know you are not fishing for compliments, but I have read an awful lot of stuff on IM and I am very faithful lurker at BHT and I just want to say that I LOVE what you are doing. The lurking and reading has stretched me, challenged me and encouraged me to think more deeply about what it means to follow Christ in this age. Keep up the good work.


  29. Michael,

    It was the Reformed Blogosphere that turned me away from Reformed theology. The divisiveness, argumentativeness, hyper-critical spirit, anger, pettiness, sarcasm and condescending attitudes by the bucketloads just put a stake in the heart of Calvinism for me. Like Rob at Antithesis and you, I got fed up. James White, Phil Johnson, Tim Challies, et al. seem to live for nothing other than tearing other people down. White, unfortunately, even makes a living from it.

    I agree with C. Gordon Olson who said that Ad Hominem arguments are not always invalid. Jesus said that you shall know a tree by it’s fruit. And the Reformed Blogosphere produces nothing but bitter, poisoned fruit. Sorry, but it’s true. And I cannot endorse a system of theology that breeds such bitterness, joylessness and gracelessness, and does so in the name of Christ.

    As someone said to a preacher once, “Please sir, we want to see Jesus.”

    And I can say, that as I have read your blog over the past year, I have seen you gradually showing more and more Jesus. Keep it up.

  30. Steve: I understood you completely. I wasn’t annoyed. I just wanted to clarify the difference between emailers and commenters. No problem at all.

  31. This may not help your credibility much, but as a Mormon I read this site religiously to get a different perspective on the Christian world.

    I really enjoyed this essay, but don’t really understand some of the labels. 🙂 Can you point me to a description of what “reformed” means? Somebody had told me it was sort of equivalent to Calvinist, but your good point #10 was that you “brought your kids out of the SBC and into the reformed faith”. I had thought most Baptist churches were Calvinist, since so so many go to great pains to point out they are “Independent Free Will Baptists”.

    Your reasons Reformed should love you anyway include lots of reasons you’ve promoted the Reformed cause. Is there something you have lying around that explains why you think being Reformed is a better alternative?

    Sorry for being stupid, but our arguments are more on the level of whether God wants us to drink caffeinated soda. We just don’t get into theology that much.


  32. Bob…I am leaving….another commenter will have to do it, but Baptists are not reformed….usually. A small minority are.

    Someone get some links for Bob. What about Bob people?

  33. I discovered this site about a month ago, at the nadir of my spiritual life over the last several years, and it has been like a breath of fresh air.

    I spent the first four years of my Christian walk in a PCA church in Calvinism was the coin of the realm. I grew much and learned much (at least I think so), and reformed theology totally rocked my legalistic world. I think I finally really learned what the real Jesus was like through reformed theology and got me on the first tentative steps to loving Him and accepting that He loves me.

    However, I also learned a few other things:
    (1) Reformed theology is logically consistent. This is fine — it’d be a problem if it weren’t — but there are those who practice reformed theology who equate its consistency with its truth. The study of reformed theology — of theology at all — pretty quickly becomes no different than studying geometry, where we take certain axiomatic statements and use logical constructions to build new propositions out of the axioms. Then theology, and then God Himself, becomes just as much of a cold intellectual exercise.
    (2) People who equate consistency with truth are — perhaps understandably — extremely threatened when someone suggests that truth is greater than consistencym, that there might be other metrics for truth besides logical coherence. So if someone proclaims truth outside of the logical system of choice, those who cling to the system feel their whole world coming undone, and they attack in what must appear to them to be sheer self-defense.
    (3) Reformed theology is full of people for whom the word “reformed” is an organzing principle for their lives. They won’t read books that aren’t reformed; go to churches that aren’t explicitly reformed; and so on.
    (4) These people are often the same people as in (2).

    So if you’re under attack, perhaps it’s because you’re showing some of these people that there’s more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in their philosophies.

    Please keep up the good writing.

  34. Dear iMonk,

    I am a long-time lurker. Your iMonk essays have been instrumental in shaping a healthy Christian identity within me, a debt I can never repay. You have nothing to prove to anyone. To hell with the Truly Reformed!

  35. Dear iMonk,

    I found your site in someone’s .sig on of all places. I’m a computer geek looking to transition into full-time ministry in the next few years. I just wanted to encourage you keep doing what you’re doing. There will be detractors, and that’s fine. I think the nature of anonymity online allows our sin nature to be exposed more than any would care to admit, and it gives us all much to pray about. For the specific detractors in the TR crowd, they may never get it. It’s OK to question one’s faith, and for those of us who really believe that Jesus paid our debt, it’s part of the continuing exploration of who He is.

    I have to thank you for posting your essays, because I think that when I do go into ministry, my eyes will be more open to the kinds of trouble I will have to deal with. May God grant me grace to deal with it, and may He continue to bless you and yours as you serve.

    We all have to love people, but in the short term, we may not have to like them. (As I read that, it’s sickeningly pithy – sorry.) Don’t let it get you down. If you’re ever up in the Twin Cities in MN, I’d be honored to buy you a beer.


  36. iMonk– I found your site and BHT several months ago and I’ve been reading them regularly since.

    Were it not for you, I would consider the equation “Reformed = unreasonable” to be true. It makes it easier to consider “reformed” viewpoints with an open mind when I know that people like you exist. Keep it up.

    I also would be interested in whatever links anyone has for Bob. Until just recently, I was under the impression that Calvinism was the only distinctive that made a person “Reformed” but I don’t think that’s true.

  37. Bob,
    Here is the website of and it’s section on Reformed Theology. There are several links that you can follow on that site.

  38. I think you missed the biggest point – I’ve always been and continue to be a big fan of yours.

    Even before you were ‘infamous’ …

  39. Imonk: “The fact that people overhear the conversation means I can’t say James White is an exanple of a reformed teacher who believes Catholics are lost? Because of Google I can’t read and review Phil’s work on Wright?”

    Right, Spencer. THAT’S what all this is about. You just read and “reviewed” Phil’s work on Wright, and you just happened to mention White’s name in a totally innocuous fashion. And because those guys are essentially TR Nazis (even though neither of THEM has ever claimed to be “TR”), they rained hell on your head out of sheer meanness.


    That’s ALL there was to it.

    Good memory.

    You just keep posting your sweet-tempered daily devotions in all your insouciant innocence, and surely the Lord will strike THEM dead.

  40. Just remember people, the Tongue is a fire. If James were around today he’s also apply to keyboards…

  41. Michael, I am a 52 yr. old female (a nobody, without a blog, and this is my first post on someone’s), but I have been following your blog roll all this year. You have influenced me greatly by your expressions; you have given birth to new thoughts, new termonology, and new theological reference points. I am a Southern Baptist, who for the last year, has been studying Reformation theology wherever I have found it. Your input benefited me, esp. since you were in the SBC at one time, too. After teaching myself what Calvinism/Reformed doctrine was, I learned that some big SBC leaders don’t like the “Calvinism Movement” that has sprung up in the SBC. Thank God that John Piper does like it, and I first learned of Piper over at Coffeeswirls. 🙂 Now, I want to leave the SBC and join a Reformed Baptist church. Here and there, Michael, you have shown me the way. I do marvel at your unique wit and your amazing capacity for original thought (next to me, you are a genious). Please don’t lose yourself…except in Christ. And, Michael, THANK YOU, for your time! Again, thank you…I return here again and again, and am lovin’ The IMonk. 😀

  42. I think Michael should come out and say it – he hates James White and Phil Johnson and they should admit their hate for Michael. Enough political correctness. It is rather obvious that Michael has a hate problem. He should stop trying to justify and rationalize it.

  43. Give this whole mess another few months. They will all think of something else to complain about. I like your stuff. God bless you.


  44. Dan Crawford says


    I am an Anglican priest with deep Catholic sympathies. I attended an Anglican Evangelical Seminary. I almost left after the first week when I found my vocabulary offended some of my classmates and faculty. Within two weeks, I had pretty much developed a vocabulary list of forbidden words. Then I soon discovered that among certain evangelicals ignorance was highly revered as the third dominical sacrament. That was a bit disconcerting. David Wells within two years was writing about the scandal of evangelical ignorance.

    Unlike you, I have never had much respect for Pastor MacArthur and his disciples and their unique brand of personal infallibility. (Unlike Popes who may be wrong about some things, they are absolutely correct about all things.) Having listened to his sermons and endured his rather bizarre exegesis of Greek and Hebrew texts, I am amazed that anyone really takes him seriously. As for the Reformed hucksters, money makers, know-it-alls, I have even less respect. When I first encountered Calvinism, I wondered how it might square with traditional (tradition is the forbidden T word) Christianity, but how it could be reconciled to the New Testament? Then I understood that for many of the Reformers Christian History began on Halloween, 1517. A rather appropriate day.

    As an Anglican watching the American Episcopal Church self-destruct, I am concerned that some of the worst Evangelical Anglican types are already jockeying for control of what remains. I appreciate their defense of the faith handed on to the saints, and I admire their passion. I am, however, very afraid of their tendency to act in the way you described, because Anglo-Catholics will soon find themselves cast into the outer darkness if Anglican evangelicals don’t at least appreciate the importance of humility.

    But humility as understood by many evangelicals is a virtue only appropriate to and to be practiced by those whom the evangelicals criticize.

    Thanks for another provocative and thoughtful essay. I do appreciate your blog very much.

  45. justinsee,

    ARE YOU CRAZY??!!! I mean, seriously! The awesome nature of the blogging community (as opposed to the horrible nature of it – probably for the same reasons) is that it is a COMMUNITY. The people who read IM’s blog are in essence a community of faith – of searchers, believers, and detractors, all trying to scratch out their journey. That’s why most of us read this thing. Because of that community, don’t you think IM can confess to others that he’s struggling with hate and bitterness? I don’t think he’s trying to “justify” or “rationalize” anything – he’s just trying to deal with his feelings yet still write what he belives to be true about their beliefs. Yes, it’s personal, yes it’s hard, and no, I haven’t agreed with all IM’s said about those he rants against. But the simple fact that he struggles with how to love them as Christians means WOW! – he’s human like all of us. Kudos to you, Michael, for being real for us.


  46. For Bob –

    Unfortunately, getting a solid definition of “Reformed” isn’t easy. People in the Reformed camp complain about the lack of substance in the term “evangelical” – well, I would say nowadays that the term “Reformed” now suffers the same problem. Every separate camp (Presbyterian hyper-rationalists like Robbins and the Trinity Foundation; the moderate Calvinists with the Founders group in the SBC; the independent (R)eformed Baptist churches and associated allies (where most of our flack comes from); all make claim to the title “Reformed”. All would claim that they preserve the heritage of the classic Protestant Reformation (Calvin, Luther, etc), yet I doubt that Calvin or Luther would recognize many of them as being their descendants or approve what they’ve done to their theology.

    If you want a quick general introduction to (R)eformed theology by one of its more charitable proponents, see these PDF’s by John Frame…

    To Dan Crawford –

    I too am watching the the dissolution of the Episcopal church from a “box seat”, as it were, and I am interested in who you are characterizing as the “worst evangelical” types? The REC? The AMiA?

  47. Funny when I first shared with a few friends that I was linking my blog to a couple of your articles I was warned to be careful because of what you though about a few different topics.
    Frankly I have not found any Christian I completly agree with.
    I was also raised Catholic (altarboy when the mass was in Latin) so I appreciate your articles on Catholics.
    James White doesnt like you?
    Well,I did like The King James only book he wrote But just because he doesnt like you does not mean I will burn my Steve Camp records either.
    And look on the bright side at least you don’t have Richard Abanes roaming your walls.
    The only question I have now is when I can take off this garlic necklace my friends gave me?
    They said when I posted here it would keep me safe.
    My wife is thinking of making marinara sauce with me.
    Keep up the great work Michael

  48. Part of the reason I abandoned Reformed theology and started diving into postmodern theology is partly because of the nature of Reform’s advocates. These guys are SO sure that they’re right that they’re more interested in defending debatable doctrine than showing love. As I recall, Jesus made love (“Love one another; this is how the world will know you’re My disciples”) more of a priority than doctrine (“Don’t hinder him, for whoever isn’t against us is for us.”).

    When they stand behind God someday, they’ll have to explain their priorities, but I don’t think God will be impressed with their reasoning either. After all, Jesus preferred the company of Samaritans to Pharisees.

    I’d tell your critics what I tell mine: “Your logic might work on me if your attitude was more consistent with God’s love. But because of the way you chose to respond, I can only conclude that you don’t really know God; for God is love. Accepting the propositions of someone who doesn’t really know God is neither wise nor safe.” This tends to make ’em insane, which, sadly, only proves my point.

    Meanwhile, keep doing what you’re doing. Your blog is always fun to read, whether I agree with it or not. (More agree than disagree; I’ve still got a lot of Reform in me yet.)

  49. Dan Crawford says


    I meant by the phrase “the worst evangelical Anglican types” individuals in ECUSA, AMiA, REC, some of the “continuing” Anglican churches and the Church of England who in various internet fora and other places have made it clear that they will settle for nothing less than a return to a kind of Anglican Cromellianism, and who have also made it clear that they consider the Tractarians and other “high” churchmen to have been responsible for the mess the church is in today. I am not suggesting that bodies such as the REC and AMiA are representative. I must say, however, that one of the reasons why I have been very reluctant to consider AMiA as an alternative to ECUSA is my perception that AMiA is less than welcoming to Anglo-Catholics. In this I may be mistaken, but it has been my perception.

    I do not mean the Stotts, the Allisons, the McGraths, the Greenes. Though I may disagree with parts of their theology, I understand that we can carry on a grace-ful conversation, and worship together. I’ve met of number of such Evangelicals, and I delight to be with them. I’ve also encountered in abundance the ones I described. They make me very uncomfortable because their attitude suggests that one with my views is “less than Christian”.

  50. Dan – I was just curious. My church is affiliated with AMiA. I actually can’t say what the “unofficial” attitude is towards A-C’s, and that’s probably a matter for individual congregations in any event. In fact, you’re probably the first A-C I’ve actually met. (Just don’t go reading too much Newman – I don’t think we can afford to lose you. :-} )

    K.W. – Been there, done that, have the scars to prove it. I would still consider myself “Reformed” in my theology in general (esp. regarding the Gospel and its application). But the bad attitudes, and uncritical (and highly defensive) insistance on modernist philosophy by many of its most vocal paritsans, has soured me on wearing the label “Calvinist” as well. A *little* post-modernism – just enough to shake you from your delusion of having the doctrines of the faith down pat with 100% correspondence to the Divine Reality, and seeing that “we see through a glass darkly” – could go a long way…