2018’s Most-Discussed Posts on IM
We have had another year of interesting and, I hope, edifying conversation here at Internet Monk. That has certainly been our goal, and I hope that I and the rest of our writers have primed the pump well.
It is always our desire, first of all, to be growing people.
Second, we hope to communicate what we are learning in ways that invite others to share our journeys and walk with us as friendly discussion-partners.
That, of course, does not mean we walk in lock-step agreement. As if that were even a possibility. But it does mean our aim is to make this blog a place that is rare in our partisan, everyone-is-an-expert age — a place of humility where no one claims to have all the answers. Hopefully, we raise a lot of good questions and hold the answers we’ve found with a loose grip and a commitment to keep learning.
The posts that prompted the most discussion this past year are representative (in my opinion) that Internet Monk is still serving this purpose. Much thanks belongs to you, our faithful readers and commenters. We appreciate your interest and participation.
• • •
Mike the Geologist writes our “Faith and Science” posts and has developed a weekly spot on Thursdays, working through books and articles pertinent to the topic. He has consistently generated lively discussions. This post considers John Polkinghorne’s observation that one purpose of the Bible is to show how the people of God developed in faith and spiritual understanding from infancy to maturity and did not iron out all the stages so as to present a “flat,” uniform text.
It seems clear that before the Hebrew Bible reached it final form there was a long developmental process, involving reworking much that had been inherited from the past in light of the understanding and experiences of the present. Yet the editors who assembled the final text apparently did not find it necessary to smooth out the differences present in the sources they used in order to produce the appearance of a single consistent text. This exploration of the past was not to be totally obscured from view.
Masturbatory Worship Music
by Chaplain Mike
This post’s title and leading metaphor offended some, but I thought it was important to make a strong point about the extreme narcissism of some of today’s “worship” performances. The main example was further highlighted by the fact that it occurred during a service in which the pastor openly confessed to having participated in sexual immorality. Jonathan Aigner called this kind of public display “a masturbatory, self-preserving, self-worshiping, self-referential pursuit,” a worship almost completely absorbed with self.
Quotes That Have My Attention Lately
by Chaplain Mike
Sometimes it is simply enough to savor the wisdom others have expressed so succinctly, so perfectly, so effectively.
Bad Press: The Circus Goes On
by Chaplain Mike
Deeds done in darkness will one day be brought to light. Christians used to believe this. Unfortunately, we are finding out more and more that they proclaimed this truth while hiding huge areas of darkness in their own lives and ministries. They haven’t learned to hide yet from the fact that their deepest secrets are one social media post away from public gaze.
Forget the mostly bogus complaints about “persecution” and loss of “religious freedom.” Can we once practice a bit of humility and admit that we’ve done as much or more to drive people away by our own misbehavior?
It’s No Longer Just Fringe Theology
by Chaplain Mike
When Robert Jeffress and John Hagee are the ministers asked to pray at the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, it shows that the sub-biblical theology of dispensationalism and its variant branches have made inroads into the halls of power and we should be afraid. We should be very afraid.
Cisterns That Hold No Water: An OT Meditation on Political Power
by Randy Thompson
Randy Thompson is a friend who provides comfort and rest to people in ministry by providing a place of retreat for them in the beautiful mountains of New Hampshire. He is also a fine thinker with keen insights that I love to have him share here at IM. This particular post considers how today’s evangelicals may be deaf to the teaching of the Hebrew prophets, who regularly encouraged Israel’s leaders to trust in God and not in political or military might..
Focused on short-term political successes, white evangelicals seem oblivious to the likelihood that the alliances they’ve made to attain these successes will erode the credibility of their witness. Evangelicals will increasingly be perceived in relation to their political allies, so that Christ increasingly starts looking like President Trump to those who take time to notice. To go back to Old Testament times, the people of God took on the characteristics–and the religions–of the powers with which they became allied. When Ahaz allies himself with the Assyrians, for example, he also allies himself with their religious practices, as 2 Kings 16 describes. The altar of Israel is remodeled to be like the altar of the Assyrians.
A sociologist of religion I knew years ago used to ask, “Who’s influencing whom?” This is exactly the question white evangelicals need to be asking themselves: “Are we influencing the United States, or is the sick moral, political and spiritual climate of the country influencing us?” (For that matter, mainline Christians need to be asking themselves the same question, especially the denominational bureaucrats.)
Just in case you’re wondering…I’m a both/and person
by Chaplain Mike
Can a person believe that the Bible is God’s inspired Word, and also a book produced by human communities that is is marked by all kinds of imperfect human characteristics as people describe their experience of God and their understanding of God’s work in this world?
Can a person be against abortion, believing that it harms the most vulnerable and helpless in our society, and at the same think that abortion should remain legal, safe, and available?
Well, let me introduce myself, because I am that both/and person.
Why I Am an Ally — My View
by Mike Bell
One of the series that our friend Mike Bell shared with us in 2018 was his “Why I Am an Ally” series. It was one of our most well received series, prompting several great discussions. As Mike wrote, the series had its genesis when he sent a “Happy Anniversary” message to two gay married friends.
Years later, when I look at Geoff and his Partner, I see love, I see caring, I see fidelity. What I do not see is sin. A couple of Pastors mentioned that they would counsel divorce between Geoff and his partner. I do not accept this. Instead I think their marriage is one to be looked up to and admired.
Can Women Be Church Leaders? The NT Household Codes
by Scott Lencke
Scott, who blogs at The Prodigal Thought, is one of our occasional writers here at IM. In this post, he deals with the “household code” passages in Paul’s epistles that speak of relationships in ancient Greco-Roman households. “Literal” interpreters of Scripture have often used these texts to justify hierarchical authority positions within the family and society. However, Scott understands them as apostolic encouragements to be wise and credible witnesses in the societies wherein the churches addressed lived.
What I would offer is that Paul is giving instructions to the church of the first-century Mediterranean world on how to conduct themselves in their home life in the most honorable way possible for their setting.
Luther’s Deadly Doctrine
by Chaplain Mike
2018 was a year of great political upheaval in the U.S., and one of the most controversial aspects of the year involved the apparent rise of white nationalism in America. One accepted doctrine in such groups is that “the Jews” are playing a prominent role in fomenting a race war designed to end the rule of whites and make them subservient to other races. Christianity has often fanned the flames of antisemitism throughout history, and one notorious example is Martin Luther. In this post, we talk about why Luther wrote so vehemently against the Jews, and discuss why the apocalyptic thinking that motivated him can be so deadly.
Another of Mike’s well received series presented some updates on his own journey in and out of the wilderness with regard to church and beliefs. In this post, he reviews several doctrinal positions he has reconsidered and discusses why he has changed those positions over the years.
Beyond the Sixth Extinction
by Mike the Geologist
Our most-discussed posts of the year begin and end with Mike the Geologist. You tell me, on what other theological discussion site will you find an extended consideration of a potential zombie apocalypse?
Thanks for a great 2018!