The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: January 4, 2020 — Annual Review and Preview

Protestors in Hong Kong pause to greet the new year. (Lam Yik Fei for The NY Times)

The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: January 4, 2020

It’s almost Epiphany, the end of the 12 Days of Christmas in the Western Christian world. Time to take the Christmas decorations down. Our friend Mike Bell thinks his neighbors might have left theirs up a bit too long.

‘Cause nothing says “Christmas” like illuminated sharks!

Today, we will look back on 2019 here at Internet Monk, sharks and all, and do a bit of looking forward to the new year, which promises to be just as eventful, or likely even more so — given that it’s a presidential election year, an impeachment trial is imminent, and the U.S. just poked the Iranian bear, potentially setting the entire Middle East ablaze in conflict.

• • •


The Mikdash Educational Center in Israel minted a “Temple Coin” featuring Donald Trump alongside King Cyrus, who 2,500 years ago allowed Jews to return to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon.

JANUARY: Evangelicals for King Donald, by Chaplain Mike (197 comments), and It’s 2019 – and I still shake my head at how the church still treats women, by Mike Bell (111 comments)

FEBRUARY: Purity Culture, by Klasie Kraalogies (109 comments), and What on Earth Is a “Biblical Worldview”? by Mike Bell (109 comments)

MARCH: Goodbye Facebook, by Chaplain Mike (92 comments), and Quotable Quotes, by Mike Bell (91 comments)

APRIL: Rebranding Christianity, by Damaris Zehner (92 comments), and What the Bible Actually Teaches (5), by Chaplain Mike (62 comments)

America’s Roman Catholic bishops voted in June to enact a new oversight system intended to hold them accountable for abuse and cover-ups, a move meant to restore faith in a church whose epidemic of misconduct has driven away parishioners and attracted the attention of state and federal law enforcement.

MAY: Some Questions that Came Up This Week, by Chaplain Mike (131 comments), and The Coming Roman Catholic Collapse? (90 comments)

JUNE: How We Sound to Those Who Don’t Believe, by Michael Spencer (116 comments), and When Prayer Is Something Else Altogether, by Chaplain Mike (111 comments)

JULY: Richard Beck on Disenchantment and Death (90 comments), and Post-Progressive, by Chaplain Mike (65 comments)

AUGUST: Our Moral Impulses — And Appreciating Our Neighbors’, by Chaplain Mike (160 comments), and Evangelical Anxiety about Culture, by Michael Spencer (110 comments)

John MacArthur celebrated 50 years in the pastorate at a conference at his congregation Grace Community Church. During the event, MacArthur accused the Southern Baptist Convention of taking a “headlong plunge” toward allowing women preachers, and saying Beth Moore should “go home.”

SEPTEMBER: Impeachment? by Daniel Jepsen (213 comments), and The Lutheran Church and Creation Days, by Mike the Geologist (137 comments)

OCTOBER: Please, Just Say It, by Chaplain Mike (143 comments), and Evolving Faith, by Mike the Geologist (102 comments)

NOVEMBER: Are We More Gracious than God? by Chaplain Mike (77 comments), and The Glory of God’s People? by Chaplain Mike (75 comments)

DECEMBER: The “No” and the “Yes” of Jesus, by Chaplain Mike (57 comments), and “Lo, How a Rose” — Experiencing the Power of Beauty, by Michael Spencer (40 comments)

• • •

IM Story of the Year 2019: Schisms in evangelicalism appear and widen

The world of American evangelicalism has been in the news in 2019, often for all the wrong reasons (in this writer’s opinion).

In the view of many Americans the word “evangelical” has become so intertwined with the Republican party and especially with unwavering support for President Trump that it has virtually lost all meaning as a description of Jesus-shaped faith and piety.

The band-aid was ripped off painfully once and for all recently by Mark Galli, who wrote an editorial at Christianity Today, a flagship publication of evangelicalism, called Trump Should Be Removed from Office.

Galli accused today’s evangelicals of hypocrisy, giving Donald Trump a free ride on his obvious and blatant moral and character issues after having insisted upon righteousness in the days of Bill Clinton.

[T]his president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationships with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.

Reactions to Galli from other evangelicals were swift and loud. Over 200 leaders wrote a letter slamming Galli’s opinion and claiming they were just “Bible-believing Christians and patriotic Americans who are simply grateful that our President has sought our advice as his administration has advanced policies that protect the unborn, promote religious freedom, reform our criminal justice system, contribute to strong working families through paid family leave, protect the freedom of conscience, prioritize parental rights, and ensure that our foreign policy aligns with our values while making our world safer, including through our support of the State of Israel.”

This led Timothy Dalrymple, the president of CT, to write a piece defending Galli, The Flag in the Whirlwind, and then Galli did an interview with the New York Times in which he lamented the “ethical naïveté” of many evangelicals. They appear, he said, to be ignorant of how grave and disturbing the president’s moral failures, character flaws, and public words and actions truly are. They have taken cues from him and have become his “disciples,” answering their critics by denigrating and dismissing them rather than engaging in serious conversation.

The ascendancy of Donald Trump and “Trumpism” has revealed a deep split at the heart of American evangelical faith and practice. Barring something I can’t forsee, it will only get worse in 2020.

And so it begins. See: Trump Launches “Evangelicals for Trump”

• • •

On a serious note…Australia continues to burn

NASA’s Aqua satellite used its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer to capture this view of wildfires raging on Australia’s eastern coast on Dec. 9, 2019. The wildfires were fueled by unusually hot weather and a potent drought that primed the region in October 2019, according to the space agency. (Image credit: NASA EOSDIS)

Australia is facing an apocalyptic crisis with this year’s bushfires. Our friend Susan and others have been giving regular reports to us. If you’ve been watching the news, the world is finally beginning to take notice.

This weekend looks to be a particularly bad one.

We will put regular updates on the IM Bulletin Board (sidebar right) under the heading “FOR YOUR DAILY PRAYERS.”

• • •

What does the next decade hold for religion?

Religion News Service asked scholars, faith leaders, activists and other experts to reflect on the last 10 years in religion, as well what they expect to emerge for faith and practice in the 2020s.

Here is a brief sample. I encourage you to read the entire article.

Monitor the growing connections between nationalism and religion

Khyati Joshi: I’m keeping an eye on these growing bonds of nationalism and religion in America, as well as in India. In both large, officially secular democracies, a rising tide of thought and official action links national identity with the majority religion.

The nones will become a majority

Ryan Burge: I wanted to predict what American religion would look like in 2030 by extending the current trend lines of the seven major religious traditions in the United States. More specifically, I was interested in how long it would take for the religiously unaffiliated, who have seen major gains over the past decade, to be clearly the largest group in the United States. The answer that was derived from my projection model is 2029. This is the point when the model says that if the so-called nones grow at the slowest rate, they will still be larger than any other group, regardless of the margin of error.

Demographic changes will appear at the polls

Robert P. Jones: If the 2010s was the decade of transformation, the 2020s will be the decade of reckoning with change. Because white Christians vote at higher rates than other Americans, the ripple effects of these tectonic changes in the general population haven’t yet reached the ballot box. While 2008 was the last presidential election year when white Christians were still a majority among the general population, white Christians will likely remain the majority of voters in 2020. But in 2024, demographic waves will crash onto our political shores.

This new reality will impact partisan politics, particularly the calculus of future Republican presidential candidates. Currently, the GOP base is about 70% white and Christian. The more tightly President Donald Trump ties the party to this shrinking and graying base, the longer the road to victory will be in 2024 for the Republican nominee, who by necessity must create a broader, younger and more racially diverse coalition.

Jews will face a difficult 2020 and beyond

Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin: [L]et me tell you what I see in the stars for world Jewry in the coming year. The picture is not pretty. This past year has seen the rapid acceleration of anti-Semitic incidents — both in Europe and in the United States. The social contract, complete with an immune system that guarded against the excesses of hate, has vanished.

No, this is not Berlin, 1938. And yet, it is disturbing and disorienting. European Jews are “accustomed” to this; it has been part of their narrative for the past thousand years. For American Jews, this is something for which nothing in their history or experience has prepared them. More disconcerting: With the exception of certain major cities, synagogue affiliation rates are dropping. Fewer young people are getting a quality Jewish education. With a shrinking sense of religious community — less communal Velcro — young Jews, and others, will be less prepared to meet the external challenges they will face.

• • •


The Spencers & the Mercers, 2009

It’s hard to fathom, but this year marks my tenth year as lead writer for Internet Monk. And April 10th greets us as the tenth anniversary of Michael Spencer’s death.

I find it hard to put into words what this blog has meant to me, but it has become an integral part of my life, my inner being, my spirituality, my faith and practice.

Thanks to so many people, most especially Michael and Denise, for giving me this opportunity. But also, to Jeff Dunn, Damaris, Mike Bell, Lisa, Joe the Plumber, Mike the Geologist, Pastor Dan, Randy Thompson, Ted the Lobsterman (please tell me when they need a minister on the Cranberry Islands again!), Michael Buckley (our artist), Adam Palmer, Adam McHugh, and others who have contributed by writing, reading, commenting, supporting, befriending, and challenging me — heartfelt gratitude for all you’ve done to enrich my life and this website.

2020 may — may — find me stepping back a bit from writing as often. I’m still trying to work out a plan for the year. But I guarantee you this: we will always try to keep things interesting, to keep things Jesus-shaped, to keep things honest, and to keep things conversational.

Our goal is to continue the vision I stated in a 2015 site update: to be a post-evangelical, ecumenical, pastoral, and contemplative site, devoted to maintaining a legacy of Jesus-shaped Christianity.

You won’t always like what you read here. But I hope you’ll always find something nourishing and challenging.

We could always use financial support — I promise we won’t ask often, but we do need to keep feeding the gerbils that keep this site turning. You can use the “Donate” button at the top.

Ten years. Who’d a-thunk it?

Best to you for 2020 and beyond. May God bless us, every one.

167 thoughts on “The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: January 4, 2020 — Annual Review and Preview

  1. Updating the litany of Presidents near the beginning of Harlan Ellison’s “A Boy and His Dog”:…


    (The original went through Nixon or Ford into an endless string of “Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy…”)


  2. It is just as likely that it is the level of scrutiny the man is under that prevents him from cheating on his wife. Remove the scrutiny, and……

    In addition, it’s not as if you were aware when he was cheating on his wife all those other times.


  3. For myself, the constellation of writers surrounding the Spanish Civil War known as the Generation of 36.


  4. To my knowledge, he hasn’t cheated on his wife since taking the oath of office. Given the level of scrutiny this man is under, I think that is significant. I doubt it is the product of repentance, but then, its hard to imagine a repentant Trump.

    Fortunately, God’s requirements aren’t as onerous as those of the American Left. The prodigal son was convinced by his grumbling stomach.


  5. Dana,

    I have very little understanding of the Ontological (or essential or immanent) Trinity, except what little is revealed. I have more understanding of the Economic Trinity which seems to be more experienced in our sphere of existence.

    When I speak to the passablity of God I’m not speaking so much in terms of “emotion” and what I am in terms of agape–which doesn’t rule out emotion but yet transcends emotions.


  6. Pious Piper is deeply-madly in Love with the sound of his own Tweets (if not the smell of his own farts).


  7. Especially if it goes nuclear.
    Not only taking out the Enemies of God (“DEUS VULT!”), but fulfilling End Time Prophecy.


  8. You’re not the only one to make that comparison.
    I remember an online editorial back in late 2016-early 2017 (most likely in the Hallelujahs after the election) that said the same thing.

    But King Saul wouldn’t work on a $45 Prayer Coin/Talisman.


  9. Trump will happily be a warmonger as we head toward the election this year, because he has learned that a president’s popularity increases at the beginning of a new war, and he sees how energized the evangelical side of his base is by war against Muslims in the Middle East.


  10. In addition, it appears he has become a better man in the White House than he was out of it…

    Could you give one specific example of that having happened? Just one?


  11. That reminds me – I need to dig the books on the German and Confessing Churches out of storage and add them to the front burner pile.


  12. And when I say i show skepticism over systematic theology, it is a skepticism born not of ignorance but of long and intimate acquaintance.


  13. Guess I’m closer to Orthodoxy than I thought. But seriously, if I am going to speculate about divine emotions, I’ll take biblical indicators over systemic theological speculation – guess that’s why I’m still Protestant. 😉


  14. As far as voting on the basis of war or peace, I commend that. Unfortunately I can count the number of wars W started that Obama ended on one hand, minus the fingers and thumb. Most of the peace candidates have been weeded out of the Democratic running this time around, too.


  15. So, you’re ok with huge tax breaks for the wealthy, negating environmental protection laws, and building the wall?


  16. Basically, the choice for evangelicals – the choice to be made long before they enter the polling stations – is between Mt Sinai and Golgotha, Law and Gospel, glory or humility. Sadly, the polls and their leadership are in agreement as to which they will choose.


  17. Trump, to my mind, more closely parallels King Saul than King Cyrus. “We want a king over us that we may b just like the other nations…”


  18. Seneca, your argument isn’t against Divine mutability, rather you’re arguing against the freedom that God has given humans to make choices.

    “God […] nowhere promised that he would be a universal moral policeman. […] In fact, when God actually showed up in Jesus, he resolutely refused to judge anyone. Far from being on the side of the police, he ended up being done in by the very forces of righteousness who were supposed to be his official representatives.”

    — Robert Farrar Capon, The Romance of the Word: One Man’s Love Affair with Theology

    “Religion is one of the larger roadblocks that God has had to put up with in the process of getting his message through to the world. The usual religious view is that God has his finger in every pie, and, as the infinite meddler, never lets anything act for itself. People bolster such ideas by an appeal to Scripture, pointing out things like the parting of the Red Sea or Elijah starting fires with wet wood on Mt. Carmel. That won’t do, however. To be sure, I am not about to make out a case that God can’t do miracles–that he can’t from time to time stick in his thumb and manufacture a plum if he feels like it. Nor am I going to maintain that he can’t answer the prayers of those of his free creatures he has bizarrely said he would take advice from. All I want to insist on here is that most of the time he doesn’t meddle; that his ordinary policy is: Hands off.”

    – Robert Farrar Capon

    (I’ll not even get into Process/Open Theology, I’m sure it will be a bridge too far.)


  19. “Do you think the opposition to George Soros by Trump’s base is a form of “Protocols” anti-semitism?”

    Yes, also factoring in that Soros has criticized 4T5.

    “Related question: how did Soros conquer the free world before I had even heard of him?”

    He bet against the British governments monetary policy–and won big.


  20. Dan, have you forgotten that Nixon imposed wage and price controls?

    And, btw, about the time that Reagan was elected we saw the long decline of middle class wealth? The first Bush was right; “Voodoo economics.”


  21. Well said Eeyore.

    At the time I viewed Carter as a failure and despised his “giving away” the Panama canal. However, as I matured I realized what national handicaps Carter was working within and began to see his integrity. Also, at the time, I was incapable of moving past my political binary which saw Democrats as only evil.

    It took me well into the 90’s to see this as truth; “…was betrayed by the evangelical base because he wouldn’t reverse desegregation…” especially for church based schools that most often in the south were attempted run-arounds of the Civil Rights Act.


  22. Re: “human emotions derive from God’s”

    Well, yes, if you believe that Christ is the Ultimate Adam/Man. His is the image in which we were created, always with a view to the incarnation, which was always “plan A”. Emotions are good – and they’re not supposed to be in the lead. In Orthodox anthropology, both emotions and intellect occupy the same “space” – they are not opposed. They’re both supposed to be healed, and neither is supposed to lead the person. That’s the job of the nous (also being healed in us humans) – that aspect of a human person that is able to make the connection with God. This makes better sense to me than the alternatives – not that I can explain very well. Again, see Fr Stephen’s writings.



  23. E and R,

    Yes, the OT talks about God’s emotions. But read Fr Stephen’s first post on the link I gave. I did note the full humanity of Christ, including having emotions. But that’s not exactly the same (again, Chalcedonian Definition) as the Divine Essence having emotions. Reality is, we don’t know exactly how God is “involved in change” via acting in time, as Robert wrote, or exactly if or how the Divine aspect of Christ’s Person (and therefore the Divinity of the Father and the Spirit) has in it anything like what we humans experience as “emotion”. We do know that what has been revealed about God is that his action is always self-giving love in humility – Christ on the Cross. All else is speculation.



  24. I’m looking forward to seeing Terrence Malick’s new film, A Hidden Life, about the life and martyrdom of Austrian Catholic peasant Franz Jagerstatter, who was executed by the Nazis during WWII as a result of his religiously informed conscientious refusal to serve in Hitler’s military. I read Gordon Zahn’s study of Jagerstatter’s life and sacrifice,In Solitary Witness, long ago, and can hardly wait to see how a religiously sensitive master filmmaker like Malick brings that life to the screen.


  25. “Does this means we can no longer view evil rulers as God’s judgement upon a people?”

    Not in a democracy it seems to me.


  26. Christiane, you’re referencing the story in Genesis 50, Joseph telling his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good,” after his brothers had sold him into slavery and he later become the means to save his people.

    But this needs to be balanced by Paul’s not-so-rhetorical question in Romans 6. “Should we sin that grace may abound? By no means!”

    I’m hearing some background chatter among evangelicals, comparing Trump to Cyrus, who released the Jews from their Babylonian captivity. But nobody compares Trump with Cyrus’s predecessor Nebuchadnezzar, who hauled them off into slavery in the first place. Yet both of those ancient rulers were part of God’s plan, according to the bible—as were other oppressive rulers whom the president never gets compared to, at least by evangelicals.


  27. Do you think the opposition to George Soros by Trump’s base is a form of “Protocols” anti-semitism?

    Related question: how did Soros conquer the free world before I had even heard of him?


  28. Rick I suspect very few people are following God’s will actually. My concern is, will I follow it.

    I think the natural state of human government is bad behavior and brutal or incompetent leadership as the norm.

    As you rightly said, Stalins come and go.


  29. “Is God worried about our next election? Surely not”

    God must be concerned about our next election, but in all likelihood not for the same reasons we are…


  30. It is hard for me to see how the Godhead could relate to anything, outside itself, unless it is capable of acting in time, and to act in time is to be involved in change. I agree that God must be emotional, based not just on OT depictions of God, but on the Incarnation of Christ, the life of Christ, in which is the full revelation to humanity of the character and nature of God. In the words of Thomas Torrance: “Just as we can never go behind God’s saving and revealing acts in Jesus Christ and in the mission of his Spirit, so we can never think or speak of him truly apart from his revealing and saving acts behind the back of Jesus Christ, for there is no other God.”


  31. If it’s this…

    “the Divinity has some kind of knowledge of emotions, but we don’t know exactly what that is.”

    All I can say is that emotions are clearly attributed to God in the OT. And human emotions I would say derive from God’s.


  32. Speaking frankly, I was going to vote for the man in 2020 until this business with the Iranian general came up. That made me more wary of him.

    Yeah, he’s a vile despicable lout, but he’s done a lot of things I agree with. Hint: I quote Matt Yglesias because usually whatever Vox complains about, I applaud. In addition, it appears he has become a better man in the White House than he was out of it, although that isn’t very high praise.

    But I vote on War and Peace. Until now, Trump was the closest thing to a Peace candidate we had.


  33. So I answered your question, how about you answer mine:

    1) You seem to give a pass to bad behavior and brutal and/or incompetent leadership — including the ordering of mass killings — because it is in God’s will. Is that true?

    2) Are you NOT concerned that people in general MIGHT NOT be following God’s will?


  34. Not as concerned as we are. That doesn’t mean WE shouldn’t be concerned.

    Like I hinted at… Was God concerned about Stalin being in power? Probably not so much, as history has proven Stalins come and go.

    That doesn’t mean HUMANS shouldn’t be concerned about the Stalins of the world.


  35. Eeyore, thanks for that link. I am developing more of an appreciation for Johnny Cash that I did when he was alive. Songs like the one you linked highlight the depth and volume of his works. I appreciate making me aware of this song. I always tell my deeply evangelical sister I think that Elvis and Johnny Cash are with God, not that it matters to my sister or God, what I think.


  36. And as to the content of the post 🙂

    Thank you, Chaplain Mike and the whole crew, for all you do to make this an excellent site in every way. Peace and the Lord’s blessing be upon you all.



  37. Christ had a human nature, and therefore he had emotions. Since his human nature and his divine nature were united (but without mixture – see the Definition of Chalcedon), the Divinity has some kind of knowledge of emotions, but we don’t know exactly what that is. Furthermore, it does not necessarily follow that the Godhead “changes” because Christ experienced different human emotions. God’s unchangeableness is about something other than that, and has been affirmed by all the great Christian theologians. Much of our common understanding of God is driven by sentiment – not a bad thing, but existing on the level of human nature, not necessarily that of the divine nature. We have to be careful about what we say about God, or else we could be undermining the very things we presume about God with regard to his love and the way he delivers and heals us. On God’s side, love is, very much, ***acts***.

    Fr Stephen has written on some of these ideas. Do please read at least the first article, and, if you have time, the first 3 in this list:

    Sen and Eeyore are both right, and both wrong (pleading their forgiveness).



  38. > Schism only makes manifest the lack of communion that is already there

    I agree with this.

    > My guess is that all Christian bodies in the next three to five years will face some kind of schism

    I hope so. I am an ardent Establishmentarian, yet at some point some institutions simply need to be smashed.


  39. Yep, we are largely in agreement. Except for “the loss of a moral foundation by society”, Nah. Society has always been a hot mess, our constraints on that mess have varied over the centuries, the case for a net-loss is hard to square without serious editing of our History.

    THIS: “the non involvement of the average citizen has all allowed this”, which was my reference to Plato. There is far too much Moral-Indignation, and far too little Getting-Involved. Society has too many wimps holding their noses because they are oh-so-too-good to deal with the untidyness of Reality.

    > Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson , Lincoln

    I mentioned neither Presidents nor legislators – – – there is too much obsession with the Federal Government / DC. Leadership begins at the retail level, and the retail level deserves far more attention then it receives.


  40. Stephen , I think it will be Trump in 2020. I see quite a few people on this site who seem to believe we should use the Bible to set our national policies and use it as a yardstick on who to vote for yet are critical of their fellow citizens who use the Bible to set national policy and decide who to vote for. What’s it going to be? Christianity Today view of political decisions or the evangelical leaders? That is why we have elections.


  41. The end of Carter’s presidency? I’m not saying it was the rabbit… but it was the rabbit…


  42. –> “As I’ve opined before: Jimmy Carter, Joe Stalin, Herod the Great and Pontius Pilot have ALL served God’s will and purposes. Do I understand it? Not particularly.”

    You seem to give a pass to bad behavior and brutal and/or incompetent leadership — including the ordering of mass killings — because it is in God’s will. Is that true?

    –> “Is God worried about our next election? Surely not”

    Seriously? You are NOT concerned that people in general MIGHT NOT be following God’s will?


  43. Wiki’ing his presidency, it mentioned nothing about his cutting the military’s budget (indeed, he increased it after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan). The thing he did do was offer medical and political asylum to the Shah, which pissed the Islamic revolutionaries off to no end (but I doubt you would have approved if Carter had handed the Shah over to them…) The Church Commission sat well before he was President, and after the misuse of the CIA in prior administrations he was little inclined to reject the committee’s proposals. Yes, he did undertake many peacemaking proposals and initiatives in his administration, and if you are more adversarially inclined that probably displeases you, but biblically he was on solid ground – and we can all see what almost 20 years of aggressive military interventions have gotten us. As for energy and the economy… Nixon and Ford had price controls too. And have you actually read the “malaise” speech?

    With the benefit of hindsight, it does seem rather moderate.

    Yes, we all see through different lenses. I respectfully suggest you try a new prescription for yours. 😉


  44. Doubting that Piper speaks for the majority of Evangelicals, only those of the hyper-reformed tradition.


  45. Jesus did not join political parties, but He did take politicized actions. When He healed Gentiles and commended their faith, when He associated with Samaritans and unclean people, when He declared that He was the Messiah – those were all political actions. They just didn’t fall entirely within any single political faction’s platform. He essentially pissed ALL of them off at one point or another.


  46. Jimmy Carter weakened the military prior to 1979, he emboldened the Iran religious fanatics who took over Iran , a very pro western culture. He weakened the CIA with the help of Sen. Church and had the Carter Doctrine that led to a weakening of USA diplomatic efforts. Carter tried price controls for the energy crisis he helped created and blamed the American public for malaise as inflation roared. Of course we all see events though our own lens. He was far overshadowed by Reagan and justly so. Good man in many way , bad President is my view of Carter.


  47. Yes, Carter came into office during a difficult time, given the circumstances he did well. Job growth under Carter was 10 million in only four years; under Reagan the growth was 16 million in 8 years – average per year under Carter was better. Average quarterly GDP growth under Carter was 3.3, pretty good, no recent president has come close to that (i.e.Bush, Obama, Trump).


  48. Back to the political for a moment.

    Question: Did Jesus take sides in the politics of his time – Saducees vs Pharisees?

    Did he worry about who would be the next leader of the Sanhedrin?

    If Jesus didn’t appear to worry about the political, do we really need to or can we trust our heavenly father to accomplish His will brushing aside politics as if they actually didn’t matter in the bigger picture.

    As I’ve opined before: Jimmy Carter, Joe Stalin, Herod the Great and Pontius Pilot have ALL served God’s will and purposes. Do I understand it? Not particularly.

    Is God worried about our next election? Surely not


  49. I thought they were getting past all that racism, I do know that they tried . . . then along comes Trump . . . .


  50. Whatever way you or Eeyore say it, the theodicy problem is the same: The innocent, those who have nothing to do with making the “poor collective choices”, suffer with the rest. Given that EO theology, unlike the Original Sin doctrines typical of Western Christianity, does believe in the moral innocence of at least some human beings (besides Jesus Christ), for instance children and the intellectually challenged, the unwilling suffering of the innocent, inflicted because of the choices of others, “God’s judgment upon a people,” presents an even more excruciating theodicy problem for it than for Western theology.


  51. Both Nixon and Carter, relatively despised among lists of recent Presidents, were able to pull off the two most successful American foreign policy initiatives of the last half-century; the opening of China and the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt.

    They both deserve kudos for this, although not as much as Anwar Sadat flying to Tel Aviv to address the Knesset. That took cojones


  52. The Deuteronomic view of history has always been exactly that, the permission of God to eat the fruit of our own ways. I think we’re saying the same things, but since we’ve lost the ability to agree on what “poor collective choices” are we’re stuck in the same box.


  53. Does this means we can no longer view evil rulers as God’s judgement upon a people? That Providence no longer operates and has been replaced by Chance+Human Evil?

    It would seem to me that God would intervene on behalf on any nation that served His purposes at any given time now that the Judaic egg has been cracked. The Deuteronomic scheme of history which applied strictly to Israel before Christ is now appropriate to all.

    I use ‘wuv’ to refer to a kind of latitudinarian tolerance that is closer to indifference than it is to genuine caritas.


  54. They know selected portions of the Scriptures that underwrite the goals and desires they have. The real question is, how well do they know Jesus?


  55. Because God is no longer intervening on the side of any particular nation (Zionists and American exceptionalists take note). And God has spoken the ultimate word of reconciliation on the Cross. So, yes, wuv wins.


  56. And Christ has abrogated the Deuteronomic view of history how? Is idolatry OK now because wuv?


  57. Hello senecagriggs,

    I understand something of what you are saying, but if we live long enough, we see in our own lives, how something that seems meant for ill turns out to be a ‘blessing’ in ways unforeseen, in ways that affirm our faith in God’s wisdom.

    We see as through a glass darkly. But every now and then, comes a special grace so startling that it takes our breath away. We are not left alone in the darkness, no.


  58. 0 for 2.

    The essay is Political Disney World, and it is here: Copy, paste in browser, and go.

    From that essay: How Democrats view Republicans

    How Republican view Democrats

    Interesting that the Republicans are represented by evil men and the Democrats by evil women. One of the most interesting developments of the Trump Era has been the instantiation of the sexual rhetoric of the alt-right (“Alpha Males” “Alpha Widows”) into voting blocs.

    Buen provecho, cabrones


  59. The Deuteronomic view of history must be understood in light of Christ, as was covered in one of the discussion threads above.


  60. “The ascendancy of Donald Trump and “Trumpism” has revealed a deep split at the heart of American evangelical faith and practice. Barring something I can’t forsee, it will only get worse in 2020.”

    I knew this when people didn’t speak up and fight the trumpist treatment of the border babies . . . I couldn’t understand . . . but then there always was a deep core of racisim at the heart of some denominations, but I thought they had tried to overcome it

    I guess the Donald resurrected the old hatred and contempt for those who were different, and made the asylum seekers to be evil people . . . . he cannot have known what all Christian people know . . . that Our Lord and the Holy Family were called to seek refuge in Egypt by an angel of God

    I guess Donald Trump was able to get the white evangelical community to largely keep silent in the face of evil, but they KNEW the sacred Scriptures . . . . they KNEW . . . so I don’t understand, no


  61. Ooops. Mean Republicans

    Read the essay too. Best political reading I’ve done in a while, but that probably displays the shallowness of my reading habits that it should be an extended blog post rather than a book.

    Although I did read Hillbilly Elegy last year.


  62. So what? You think God is sitting in Heaven deliberating what He is going to do if the Republicans get meaner? Or that you’ll stop serving Him in a snit of pique if He continues to exhibit that apparent disregard for human suffering He appears to have exhibited through the long sad bloody spectacle of our history?

    Seneca is right. God has allowed us to go through Genghis Khan, Ivan V, the Borgias, Napoleon, Oliver Cromwell, Pol Pot and Happy Joe Stalin. As if that shouldn’t get our attention that our peace and “thriving” isn’t extremely high on His list of priorities.

    And Eeyore is right. If we repent. Really repent. and seek righteousness over pleasure and the good of our neighbor over our temporary benefit, and he ours, we can align ourselves with His purposes and find that what were formerly catastrophes are become wings for soaring aloft.

    Or have we gotten to the place in substituting our own wisdom for that of the writers of the Bible that the Deuteronomic view of history no longer has anything to say to us?


  63. Yes, his age, and seeming physical unfitness, makes him less frightening. But if I had been that TV interviewer, I made have tried to avoid him after what he said and how he said it.


  64. take a good look at a crucifix, and ponder the response of God to evil in this world

    it’s the only thing I can do sometimes to help me make any ‘sense’ of the unspeakable, Adam


  65. Susan, my heart is broken over the suffering of the people and the animals . . . you all have my prayers for some relief and healing to begin

    what is happening in Australia will soon be seen in other parts of the Earth, I fear

    I am so sad for the innocent who suffer. God have mercy !


  66. Carter had the I’ll fortune to be President in a major downturn, faced a confrontation with Iran at a time when the military wasn’t anywhere near prepared to conduct the types of operations needed, was too honest about energy and lifestyle choices related to that, and was betrayed by the evangelical base because he wouldn’t reverse desegregation and Roe v. Wade. He may not have been the best President, but the reputation he’s acquired (especially among evangelicals) is grossly unfair.


  67. Let me put it differently, then.

    If I lived next door to this guy, I’d want something to equalize the force differential between us.

    If I were an insecure politician looking to go full fash, I’d want him in a uniform pledged to me, not the Constitution.

    The more morally flexible sections of society have yet to be organized into paid armed bands bankrolled by extortionistic “subscription” schemes, but the existence of guys like the first guy tell me that the potential is there. It would be more frightening if he were thirty years younger, though.


  68. It amounts to: Take the Bible “literally” almost everywhere else, but not about this matter of God changing his mind. It’s a non-resolution to the issue, and an avoidance of the question regarding immutability as an attribute of God. Mere theological mystification, no different from gibberish. Piper lacks the courage, honesty, or both, to admit to himself and others what his argument really amounts to.


  69. John Piper’s opinions and theology are well known here. And they won’t cut much ice with most of us.


  70. The problem is: Who’s assembling and keeping the watch lists at the moment? You trust them? For the last two-plus years the POTUS has been telling us not to believe or trust our intelligence agencies, as he strove to undermine reports of Russian interference in our last presidential election; now he’s saying that the assassination of Soleimani was undertaken as a preemptive strike to prevent various terrorist attacks against our military and civilian personnel in the Middle East that Soleimani had masterminded, based on the reports of our intelligence agencies. But I don’t have any reason to have faith in our intelligence agencies, based on what the POTUS has said about them over the last two years. The same goes for whomever is in charge of keeping a list of dangerous people; I don’t trust them to put the right people on the list. The POTUS had convinced this particular American that I can’t trust our intelligence institutions ….. particularly when they are pushing his narratives


  71. Yeah. The first guy needs to be on a watch list somewhere. I could probably get him babbling about international Jewry in under 15 minutes but my guess is that there’s a daughter shacked up with a black guy somewhere.

    The guy outside the bathroom, the Bert Young-looking guy, seemed to be scared and looking for a way off the runaway train, but he didn’t want to jump if the only place to jump to was to another runaway train bunch that demanded he view prostate massage as a sacramental act.


  72. Job 42:
    42 Then Job replied to the Lord:

    2 “I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
    3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.

    4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.’
    5 My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
    6 Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.”


  73. God’s over arching will seems veiled; at least to me.

    Hitler came so very close to being blown up in the famous bomb attack. Why didn’t God let him be killed then?
    We don’t know.



  74. To the Hillary haters and the Bernie lovers who were too pure to vote for Hillary…
    To the millions of African Americans and Hispanics who sat on their hands because they didn’t have any “skin in the game”…
    To all the Left Wing conspiracy mongers who don’t think it matters who you vote for…

    What’s it going to be?

    To all the self-righteous conservatives who voted for a vile despicable lout knowing exactly what he was..
    Who’ve sat back while he sowed confusion and discord among our allies, emboldened our enemies and undermined our country…
    Who’ve bought into the most ludicrous conspiracy theories where Hillary and Obama were agents of Satan…
    Who think that all the media that celebrates Trump is “real” and all the media that criticizes him is “fake”…

    What’s it going to be?

    He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
    -Revelation 22:11


  75. God was immutable God when Rome had a Nero, there was Atilla, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, Lenin and the list goes on.

    “The LORD changed His mind about this. ‘It shall not be,’ said the LORD.” — Amos 7:3

    Should I believe senecagriggs, or the Bible?


  76. Adam T.W. . I agree with you about leadership in almost every area of our American society. Our public institutions, our governmental agencies on all levels (local, state, federal), private enterprise (big business,) and of course religious leaders. Our do nothing Congress, incompetent FBI leadership, local governments , executives at major corps., military leaders and press/news leaders have all failed and we have allowed and accepted it. The Boeing Aircraft CEO who allow the incredible stupid 737Max program to get a green light is getting fired with a 26 million possibly 52 million dollar package for his 4 year effort. Everyone can fill in , with their own examples. Greed, desire for publicity based on vanity, the celebrity culture, the loss of a moral foundation by society and the non involvement of the average citizen has all allowed this. Our affluence has allowed this for a few generations but it is catching up and the results are now being felt.

    Work like it is all up to you, Pray knowing it is all up to God. Not what we as a society are doing. Leadership matters. A good example of good leadership is Chaplin Mike who took over this site from someone who did a good job and kept it going for sure because of his ability , effort and desire to do it, Leadership matters.

    Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson , Lincoln , Roosevelts (both) compared to Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Bush 1, Clinton , Bush 2, Obama and Trump. Leadership.


  77. Yes, of course. Ironically, the “Protocols” has gone from having widespread circulation and belief in the European West, where it was ultimately debunked by Western scholars, to being resurrected and now having widespread circulation in the Moslem Middle East, where it often receives unquestioning belief.


  78. It’s not asy enough to say God’s hand is in a given situation – the question is, which way is He pointing?


  79. God was immutable God when Rome had a Nero, there was Atilla, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, Lenin and the list goes on. God certainly hears our prayers but accomplishes HIS purposes, not ours.

    If you pray that Mr. Trump will be removed, God WILL hear your prayer. Will Mr. Trump be removed? YES if that is God’s purpose. NO if it is not His purpose.


  80. Oh, criticism of specific Israeli policies, that is not an issue. The issue for me is “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” level anti-Semitism – the “Jews are subhuman monsters running/ruining the world” bull$#!t.


  81. The continuous miracle I see is that the Jewish people have not only survived through ages of persecution, and even genocide, but actually thrived and flourished in almost every situation it finds itself, no matter how the deck was stacked against them by social and political enemies.


  82. Although, at the human level the active hatred seems to be motivated by envy of a very small minority community that seems to thrive in every place and time where it finds itself, even under extremely adverse conditions, and even when the wider society doesn’t seem to be doing well. Envy is one of the seven deadly sins, and kind lead to terrible, demonic manifestations, as it has historically against the Jewish people.


  83. From Susan:

    Hi Chaplain Mike.
    Thank you for the item on eastern Australia’s dreadful bush fires.
    They are not over but there may be a lull in the next few hours before resuming. The fires could burn for weeks or even months.
    The eastern states fires are huge and so hard for fire fighters to control. Rugged terrain.The Army Reservists have been called in today for an extended period.

    I am OK now, I had four friends and family in the main fire fronts. Some moved out. Another was stuck with her children and grand children and no highway escape. They are still isolated. They are hosing ember strikes to their property. She rang me today as her husband had bought a generator so she had power.
    I found my daughter and her family. They had been out of cell phone reach. Such a relief.
    My other friends on the Blue Mountains made their escape and are safe.
    My relatives and their extended family in Victoria are safe.
    I am feeling so much better.

    However on Thursday night my heart problems and anxiety took over and I passed out. I came too and I was able to called the ambulance and they took me to Hospital where I was medicated, monitored and eventually I was able to come home.

    Pass this on as you see fit.
    Susan Dumbrell


  84. In fact, the tremendous size of the truck, the tremendous size of the flag, and the aggressive way he was driving lead me to believe that his messaging involves a not-so-subtle and barely implied threat. His Iranian equal is right now yelling “Death to America!” in the streets of Tehran.


  85. I agree…..though I don’t think that translates to the position that being opposed to Israeli national policies is a form of antisemitism, as many evangelicals seem to believe.


  86. I must admit, anti-Semitism has NEVER made any sense to me, even before I became a Christian. It is utterly irrational – there is NO sound reason for any of it. WHY such long-lasting, cross-cultural, intense hatred?

    It almost makes for a good argument that there is a literal personal devil behind it all…


  87. Indeed. Thank you, Chaplain Mike, for being such a worthy successor to Michael Spencer. Thanks also, of course, to all the people who have kept this site both interesting and friendly for all these years. Too often, religious sites descend into acrimony over participants’ differences. I hope that iMonk is still one of my read-it-every-day places on the internet a decade from today.


  88. I would like to have a conversation with the owner of the pick up and find out what he considers bullshit of which there will be less in a second Trump administration.

    I kind of operate on the assumption of the Law that bullshit cannot be eliminated or even much reduced, merely transformed or transferred.


  89. Schism only makes manifest the lack of communion that is already there. My guess is that all Christian bodies in the next three to five years will face some kind of schism, including my own which is kind of triumphalistic about it.

    When the sinews of the State weaken or become sclerotic, and communion can no longer be forced at gunpoint, the Nones (of which my kids, nephews, and nieces are Exhibit ‘A’) will have the biggest and bloodiest schism of them all. Tthe tribalists will face off against the self-flagellating universalists still trying to make commerce with the last denatured shards of Christianity.

    When you don’t love somebody, it’s easy to fall into schism with them. And not everybody can love ‘oh, you know, e-ve-r-y-bo-dy’.


  90. The reason some evangelicals are still sticking with Trump is that the areas where Trump diverges from Christian morality are the same areas where white conservatism diverges from it. That is, culturally, white conservatives tend to be okay with some degree of racism and xenophobia and with men behaving badly toward women, among other things.

    People who are both Christian and culturally conservative are therefore being pulled in one direction by the teachings of Christ and in the opposite direction by their culture of origin, and which one wins depends on which one has their primary allegiance. That’s true of people in every other cultural context, of course, but white conservatives have a long history of believing that their culture and Christianity are synonymous, whereas people in most other cultures are more aware of how their own culture clashes with Christian values.


  91. Yesterday, as I was driving out of the parking lot of my supermarket, in front of me was a HUGE pickup truck with a HUGE flag flying from its bed that read: TRUMP 2020 — NO MORE BULLSHIT.

    Yeah, I don’t see how it can do anything but “get worse in 2020”.


  92. It fits what my take on the decade has been: institutional|systemic incompetence. It has been a decade of Leaders, however intelligent, literate, or well-intentioned, who are simply bad at their jobs.

    From priests to mayors to CEOs – bad at their jobs.

    It feels like the Peter Principle hit society en masse.

    We live in a strange times when the people you want to want those jobs look at them and say “Oh, no thanks”. So they are filled with whoever shows up.

    “The heaviest penalty for declining to rule is to be ruled by someone inferior to yourself.” – Plato, The Republic


  93. Sadly, former winner of the Nobel Peace Prize Aung San Suu Kyi, who was awarded the prize “for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights” under a previous governmental dispensation, has been fully complicit as State Counselor of Myanmar in the current genocide being committed against the Rohingya. Back when she was still a hero, the rock group U2 dedicated this song to her and her cause; they have since rededicated the song to the cause of the Rohingya.


  94. Another place where the relationship between nationalism and religion is metastasizing into uglier and uglier forms is Myanmar, a majority Buddhist country in which the minority Rohingya Moslem population is in the process of being “ethnically cleansed” by the lay and military Buddhist leaders, with the full support and cheer-leading of the Buddhist religious establishment. Despite pervasive misconceptions, Buddhism is not a pacifist religion, nor does it resist the demonic calls of nationalism very well; a look at the record of the behavior of the Buddhist establishment in Japan during WWII is very sobering and eye-opening in this regard.


  95. Tom, Lets hope they don’t go the way the Episcopals did. They won’t even be around in 15 years the way their membership has dropped.


  96. > God will remain unmoved by the politics of the USA.

    I do not care if my “politics” moves God; that is not the point of “politics”.

    That’s a nice hand wave to dismiss concern for the quality of people’s lives, their safety, their prosperity, and the well-being of the disadvantaged.

    And if those issues do not “move” God then I have no use for such a monster.


  97. Agree. We’ve sped past every off-ramp from The Road To Destruction.

    I have never been more grateful that I brought no children into this world.


  98. Even in some Old Testament narratives God is shown to change his course of actions, is said to change his mind, in response to his interactions with human beings. Yet in this one thing we are told by fundamentalist interpreters not to take the Bible literally, but understand such passages as God’s condescending to communicate with human beings in language they can understand.


  99. Antisemitism: Sadly, Jewish people get it from all sides. Globally they get if from white nationalists, and they get if from Muslims; in the US they get it from white nationalists and black antisemites (the latter fact is often given short shrift in the media — you would get the impression there that almost all acts of antisemitism in the US are committed by white nationalists). Yet they endure, as small a community as they are. The survival of the tiny international Jewish community despite ages- long and pervasive persecution sometimes has the appearance of a kind of ongoing miracle…


  100. Doesn’t God care deeply for people?

    Isn’t love the highest way, the thing that gives all else we do or accomplish value?

    I certainly believe Jesus loves those who will be both instigators, major players & the victims of politics, both in the US & here in the UK (which may not be the UK for long).

    How can God be aloof when Jesus came as he did? All to say that I suspect, Tom, we believe in a similar God.


  101. I agree. You’d think that the Incarnation of Christ, his life of engagement with everything human, and his death shaped by the confluence of local and international religion and politics, would consign once-and-for-all the idea that God is unmoved by anything human.


  102. As for 2020, I believe you are correct.

    Australia is burning.

    The Middle East is aflame with war, with strong prospects of it getting worse.

    The national and global economy is weakening, with recession talk growing, and the central banks out of ammo to stop another crisis.

    We face a momentous and contentious election this fall.

    There is a still-non zero chance of a “hard” Brexit.

    The weather worldwide continues to get wilder.

    I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I strongly suspect this will be an annus horribilis the like of which we haven’t seen in over 80 years. And we should all think long and hard about our lives and expectations for them.


  103. CM, thank you for all the wonderful work you have done for the last 10 years. Thank you also to all the other contributors for helping to make this site my daily go-to. May the next 10 years be at least as good!

    (Jeff Dunn, if you still read here know that you are missed and hope all is well with you and family.)


  104. He has a plan, but we live here and have to live out our callings here. So we have decisions to make.


  105. 2020 should be pretty wild.

    God will remain unmoved by the politics of the USA.

    He’s has a plan; He will complete it. That is my faith.


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