Looking back on 2010, our first full year of writing on Internet Monk, I am humbled and grateful for the opportunities we’ve had to explore topics of interest and discuss them together. And I’m more convinced than ever:
You make Internet Monk the great conversation that it has become.
I remember talking with a friend who is a prominent blogger and he observed that what makes our blog unique and special is the participation of its readers. After we post something, I can tell you we eagerly look forward to getting your responses so that we can get feedback and have a thought-provoking discussion.
Of course, not every post gets a lot of comments. Some are written primarily as meditations or studies, and we hope that those articles are read carefully and turn out to be an encouragement to those who digest them. But what we really live for are those posts that provoke conversations in which we are able to have lively dialogue, debate, and agreeable disagreement; conversations which can help us discern how to think more clearly and develop a better understanding of some aspect of life and faith.
We begin back in February . . .
Feb 25, 2010. What Have We Wrought? (Chaplain Mike, 204 comments)
This Open Mic post featured a video from the BioLogos Foundation with Os Guiness called, â€œScience and Faith in the Front Lines of the Culture Wars.â€ In this provocative piece, Guinness argues,
â€œIn many ways, the new atheists are partly created by the Religious Right. You can see that in America there is no vehement repudiation of religion until recently. In Europe, the atheism is a reaction to corrupt state churches. Here, youâ€™ve never had that until the rise of the Religious Right.â€
Part of the reaction against religion, he argues, stems from the poor ways people of faith think about science.
Two posts tied for ninth place. The first post discussed a letter from Archbishop Rowan Williams and a decision by the worldwide Anglican communion to bar the U.S. Episcopal Church from participating and having any decision-making power in ecumenical dialogues in which the Anglican Communion is involved. This disciplinary step was seen as appropriate by Dr. Williams because of the Episcopal Churchâ€™s rejection of three moratoria suggested at the last Lambeth Conference, putting on hold: (1) any further actions on the blessing of same-sex unions, (2) the ordination to the episcopate of people in same-sex relationships, and (3) cross-border interventions regarding these matters. Of course, this brought up the subject of homosexuality as well, and how the church should deal with the issue.
The second was an “impromptu rant” off the top of my head, pondering the following:
I donâ€™t see why we need big churches.
Iâ€™m not saying itâ€™s wrong to have a big church. Itâ€™s not a right vs. wrong issue. Iâ€™m not saying itâ€™s bad to have a big church. Itâ€™s not a matter of good or bad. In most cases, I just donâ€™t see the point.
I need someone to convince me otherwise. Because right now, I just donâ€™t get it.
Two posts generated 218 comments. The first was another controversial video from BioLogos, this time by Bruce Waltke. The video was so troublesome to certain people that it contributed to Waltke losing his job at Reformed Theological Seminary, and BioLogos made the video private (which means you can no longer view it on iMonk). What was Waltke’s point?
In this video he appeals to the church to stay in the discussion when it comes to issues of contemporary science, particularly the issue of evolution. Waltke cautions:
â€œIf the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cultâ€¦some odd group that is not really interacting with the world. And rightly so, because we are not using our gifts and trusting Godâ€™s Providence that brought us to this point of our awareness.â€
The second post generating this high number of comments was Jeff Dunn’s “non-review” of Sara Miles book, Jesus Freak. Why did he feel he could not review it for a Christian audience? Because Miles is a homosexual, and the Christian community would focus on that and not hear the good things she has to say. Jeff comments,
“Can we possibly receive anything good from one who is a practicing homosexual? Is it possible that we can read a book like Sara Milesâ€™ Jesus Freak and focus on what is goodâ€“the feeding of the poor and outcast and forgottenâ€“and ignore what makes us uncomfortable? Is that too much to ask? Apparently it is for the friends I asked about the book.”
Sept 10, 2010. Why I Am an Egalitarian (Chaplain Mike, 222 comments)
In this post I set forth a basic Biblical overview of my position on gender roles for men and women, contrasting my interpretation and view with those known as “complementarians.”
My own position has been called â€œegalitarianâ€ (though I dislike the term). I believe the ideal situation is full partnership of men and women in the service of Godâ€™s Kingdom. I do not believe that strong role distinctions were part of Godâ€™s creative plan. Though men and women certainly do complement each other in many ways, are not identical, and do have some different tasks unique to their respective sexes that they are to fulfill in life, these differences do not indicate universal hard and fast â€œauthorityâ€ and â€œroleâ€ structures.
March 9, 2010. Michael Spencer Update (Denise Spencer, 251 comments)
During the first quarter of the year, our prayers stormed heaven on behalf of Michael Spencer, our beloved Internet Monk. We kept in touch with Denise and the children and watched for updates from them on his condition. Unfortunately, the cancer was winning. In early March, Denise sent me the following to communicate with our iMonk community. The outpouring of support in response was extremely gratifying.
It is with a heavy heart that I bring my latest update on Michael. We have learned that his cancer is too advanced and too aggressive to expect any sort of remission. Our oncologist estimates that with continued treatment Michael most likely has somewhere between six months and a year to live. This is not really a surprise to us, though it is certainly horrible news. From the very beginning, both of us have suspected that this would prove to be an extremely bad situation. I donâ€™t know why; perhaps God was preparing us for the worst all along by giving us that intuition.
Words can’t express how much we miss Michael.
Sept 30 2010. Is There Life on Other Planets? (Jeff Dunn, 255 comments)
Jeff posted this open discussion on extraterrestrial life and asked people to chime in on whether or not they think we are alone in the universe, or if there are other “friends” out there to be discovered.
The question I have for you is two-fold: Do you think there is life elsewhere in the universe? By â€œlife,â€ I mean intelligent life, not just some microorganism.
And if there is, how will God relate to this life? Is sin the same for them as it is for us? Would the payment for sin cost God the same on their planet as it cost him on ours?
Jan 9, 2010. Increasing Marriage Age and Its Implications (Michael Bell, 262 comments)
Michael Bell used his formidable skills of analyzing data and presented this post challenging the church to face up to the fact that people are waiting longer and longer before they marry. A 2008 study suggested that the average marriage age has risen to 26.5 years. Mike noted, “For a young person in the church, that is additional five years of sexual temptation that did not exist 50 years ago.”
But the temptation goes even beyond that. In the developed world over the last 50 years, the median age at which youth have had their first sexual experiences has dropped between three and five years. The graph above, derived primarily from the National Family Survey, shows the American experience, a drop of 3.5 years in the age in which youth first engage in sex. According to a study done by the U.S. Government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 64.6 percent of American youth have engaged in sex at least once before the end of Grade 12. Overall 95 percent of Americans have had premarital sex.
The number and content of the responses indicated that this is a matter of great concern among Christians.
Oct 26, 2010. A Conversation We Must Have (Chaplain Mike, 302 comments)
This necessary conversation grew out of the findings in a book that has been generating a lot of feedbackâ€”American Grace, by Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell. Their study led them to conclude that the culture war approach of the Religious Right has driven young people away from the church in droves.
Based on their research, Putnam and Campbell found that in the past several years there has been a significant decline in religious participation among younger Americans (those who have come of age since 1990). About 30% of them are now classified as â€œnonesâ€â€”people claiming no religious affiliation. Folks, these are my children (my youngest was born in 1990), so this finding got my attention immediately.
What lies behind this shift? The research supporting the findings of American Grace led its authors to conclude that the â€œculture warâ€ approach and conservative political agenda of evangelicalism over the past 30 years has turned young people off and prompted them to walk away from church. And the one issue that has been particularly troublesome for them is the churchâ€™s attitude toward homosexuality.
Sept 27, 20/10. What Are You Hearing about Hell? (Chaplain Mike, 305 comments)
This was the first post in my time at IM that cracked the 300 comment barrier. This “Open Mic” discussion focused on two questions:
- What are you hearing in your church about final things? There is a sense that these subjects, especially the teaching of hell and eternal judgment, is out of vogue and not being emphasized. Iâ€™d like to know what your experience has been in your own faith communities.
- How has your thinking developed over the years regarding these doctrines? Iâ€™d like to hear about your journey of thinking about these things before God and what he says in the Bible has developed over the course of your Christian life.
Dec 6, 2010. The Disney-ization of Faith (Chaplain Mike, 333 comments)
The most-discussed post on Internet Monk in 2010 was this article that I characterized as “prophetic ridicule.” The object of criticism was Ken Ham and those who are seeking to expand the “Creation Museum” to include a full-size Noah’s Ark and more in a new theme park in northern KY.
In the cartoon world of contemporary American evangelicalism, itâ€™s all about bigger, better, and simpler. Help folks think their dreams can come true. Create â€œmomentsâ€ for people in the congregation that they will never forget, that will â€œblessâ€ families in safe and sanitized settings. Remove the messiness and reality of day to day life. Instead, put a sentimental, heart-tugging version of life up on the screen and make people feel it. Embrace the possibilities.
Evangelicalism has become â€œDisney-ized.â€
For example, enter the Mickey Mouse world of Ken Ham and his theme park vision for the Christian faith.
. . . How can any thoughtful Christian support a project like this? I know some of you are going to write and complain that Iâ€™m being judgmental and why canâ€™t God use this to bring others to Christ and teach people about the Bible? Please. I will respond as clearly and directly and forcefully as I canâ€”this project has nothing to do with Biblical Christianity.
Thank you for your invaluable contributions to Internet Monk in 2010. Let the discussion continue!