Mr. TurkThat's nice. Everyone else calls me "Frank" or "centuri0n" or "cent". Don't be a stranger. If people who have the moxie to say I'm a lousy Christian for saying iMonk is a fraud can call me "Frank", people being civil can do it if they like. "Mr. Turk" is fine, too.
Let me first say that I was not very familiar with your blog before all this, having only visited it a few times, but now I have added it to my aggregator and hope to read it more regularly in the future. I like humor. I also want to confess that I am a regular and avid reader of iMonk and the BHT (just so you know where I am coming from.) I also don’t give him a pass on everything he says and writes.You see: it puts me on the defensive right away because if what he was going to say next is, "Man, I just bought 3 t-shirts over this iMonk thing," he wouldn't be warning me that he's a BHT reader. BHT readers are not buying t-shirts as far as I can tell.
I just finished reading your post and all the comments regarding Michael Spencer and I have a some thoughts and questions:OK: shoot.
1)You said “we should not allow emotionally unstable people to speak on behalf of Christianity in any respect.” If I understand it right, one of your main points is that Michael Spencer is emotionally unstable and as such is not “credible” and is “a fraud” when giving opinions about the Christian faith and ministry. I disagree with you on two levels.
First, I think that to call him emotionally unstable is a bit much. I guess it depends on how you define “emotionally unstable”.This is An excellent point. Excellent! You see: if you define "emotionally unstable" as "allows his emotions to get away from him in ways that are indicative of a lack of self control (cf. Gal 5)", you start down a path which provides a basis for one Christian to warn another Christian about his behavior – and in the end, establishes a Biblical basis for warning others about this person if he does not listen to the advice.
That would be the one I would use. Which one would you use?
If you meant he is pathological or psychotic in some way such that nothing he says could be construed as reliable or trustworthy, then I have to disagree with you, fervently.Well, if you can find out where I said you can't trust anything iMonk says because he is a psychotic, then you’d have a point. See: I'm not trying to have him committed to the funny farm. I'm trying to expose someone who is unfit as an advocate of Christian values as unfit to advocate Christian values. When he cannot, for example, contain himself enough to find some way to say that sometimes ministry life is hard instead of "[entering the ministry] was, I’m convinced, the great mistake of my life", that indicates to me that he is not merely sad about a rainy-day experience: he is sad about the whole path of his life from that moment.
He doesn't exercise self-control. That is the evidence of being emotionally unstable. And what's more, if you scroll down the blog a bit and click on the link to the post I clipped that from, that post is gone. Does an emotionally-stable person remove posts from his blog with which he claims to see nothing wrong because they draw a little crossfire?
Michael Spencer is not a psychotic. He's troubled. I say "Let's not let troubled people be teaching voices in the body of Christ." Who's with me?
Is he given to melancholy? (yes by his own admission). Does he have a lot (too much) invested emotionally in his writing and in his popularity as a blogger. I think he does.OK: stop a second. You're about to say "Yeah but ...", and I want to give that it's fair shake. Before we do that, let's keep in mind that you and I agree that iMonk has a set of personal challenges that are obvious to the reader of his blog. If that's a place of agreement, then whatever "yeah but ..." we come up with has to account for it.
But those and his many other sins are not, in my opinion, enough to label him as “emotionally unstable” as I defined it above.There's no doubt that these difficulties do not make iMonk a psychotic. No Doubt! The question is if I have framed the definition this way or have you set the definition this way.
What I offered was an argument against using iMonk for spiritual reference; what you have offered is a checklist to see if he needs to be locked up. I don’t think he needs to be locked up: I think he needs to be ignored until he can demonstrate he has a better handle on his emotional exhibitionism.
In that, you have here made the same mistake almost every one of the defenders of iMonk have done in the last 6 days: changed the terms of the complaint to argue against it, and then knocked the straw man down.
Second, I think your statement as a blanket generalization is, in fact, not true. Especially since it adds, “in any respect”. There’s no wiggle room there.I agree. EDIT: That is, I agree that there is no wiggle-room. Period.
Heck, I am emotionally unstable. When I go to a chick flick with my wife, I am the one who cries. I cry at those stupid Kodak commercials on TV. When we have an argument, I cry first (ok thats an old Bill Cosby joke). In a Myers-Briggs profile, I am an ENFP. More touchy-feely and wishy-washy. There is a whole story I could tell of going to seminary (no I am not in the ministry nor have I ever been) and learning lots of facts about the faith and knowing systematic theology and Greek and Hebrew and church history. And how after all that my heart was hard as stone. Only many many years after the fact did God bring me to repentance and brokenness. Therein He caused me to see the importance of the heart and affections and LOVE in such a way as to move me to a greater love for the scriptures and the gospel and HIM. But I won’t tell that story (haha).Your story is your story. If telling it gets you to your point, tell it well. The question is: what is the relevance to the problem of having someone with impaired emotional self-control being allowed to speak for the church?
See: I think there is a difference, for example, between being moved to tears when you tell the story of the moment the Holy Spirit changed your hard heart from sinful stone to righteous flesh and you repented of your sin and demonstrating a life-long despair and (if the word is not too strong) anguish at one professional/vocational choice. To be sure, I can't give my testimony without choking up because I know what Christ did for me was not cheap and not because I deserved it.
The question is whether emoting over your decision to enter the ministry because you know in your heart it was the wrong decision for you, and you regret that decision because the ministry has taken a huge, unaccounted-for cost on your emotional well-being, is the same thing. I think it is not. The former is a broken heart overjoyed at God's mercy. The latter holds the ministry in disrepute when it should be held in double-honor.
All that is to say that I know why I love Michael Spencer and what he writes. He writes from a place of brokenness and contrition and humility. No one else that I know of is writing like that on the internet. No one is that open about their struggles and sin. I can relate to him. Bloggers who: 1) have their act together or 2) who have all their propositions in a row or 3) think that exegesis and systematics is an exact science or 4) truly sound from their writing as if sin is not really a struggle for them — don’t appeal to me.I think you allow too much in looking for the counterpoint of Adrian Rogers (as one example) in Michael Spencer. It is one thing to confess to struggles – to confess that sin is real and in me. It is another to complain that your life devoted to God was a waste and took a wicked toll on your marriage, or to complain that all the Baptists you know are hypocrites over alcohol, or that all the ministers you know have trophy degrees that are meaningless and (in the academic sense) either useless or fraudulent.
It is one thing to confess sin, and another to classify the things God has ordained for the church as inherently steeped in sin.
Of course, I am sure that they don’t care that they don’t appeal to me since I am emotionally unstable.I'd like you to compare your flip dismissal of me in that statement with the detailed reply I gave and ask yourself: why do you expect that I will think the worst of you?
Of course, many people who have spoken on behalf of Christianity in God-glorifying ways were “emotionally unstable”. William Cowper was brought forth several times in the comments on your first post and you never even responded.Actually, my good friend Steve Hays responded quite adequately to the Cowper example, and there's no reason to beat a dead horse – especially when the comparison between Cowper and Spencer is, in the best case, strained.
He was “emotionally unstable”. He spoke on behalf of Chrsitianity. He wrote in “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” –But what is it hunting? Is it proving that iMonk is a reliable source of theological insight? How? Let's assume for one second that Cowper produced vital, tenable hymns right up until the day he died – which is not true: he reached a point where he could not function and did not write. In what way is this hymn – or any of his hymns – reflected in the citations from iMonk I have provided?
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
That dog will hunt.
It's not. If it was, you could do more than hope that citing Piper's sermon on Cowper in hopes that Piper's shekinah will dissuade a "Truly Reformed" bully like me. Piper said so? Piper didn't say what you need him to say here to salvage iMonk's writings.
And yet Cowper’s life is described, in John Piper’s sermon on him, as “one long accumulation of pain.” He suffered with severe depression his entire life. By probably anyone’s standard he would be described as “emotionally unstable”. Many other great figures of the faith suffered with darknesses and depressions and “Dark Nights of the Soul”. The Psalmist, Paul, Luther, Spurgeon and many others. Even Jesus struggled with his calling to go to the cross.Indeed. And which of Paul's letters say, "I give up: those bloody Corinthians are all sexual deviants and I can't bear them, God. How can I minister to them when they allow a fellow to sleep with his father's wife?" Where did Spurgeon say, "I wish I had gotten a real academic degree instead of doing what I did in Seminary. Why didn't anyone warn me hat I'd be happier as an English teacher?" Where did Jesus say, "My choice to bear the cross was the biggest mistake of my life"?
They didn't. And there is a difference in class between the passion in the garden and the passionate pleas of dismay that come from the iMonk's blog.
I think just on the face of it your comment is in error, so here are my questions:See above.
1. What do you mean by emotionally unstable? How do you define it?
2. As has been asked before, does William Cowper “speak on behalf of Christianity”?Sure: but when you can demonstrate that he leaned on his emotional distress for his writing rather than the astounding salve of the Cross, you can make the identity "Cowper is like Spenser" work.
3. Is there a place for openness, brokenness, confession and gospel contrition in the christian blogosphere”?Sure. In what way are these things present in the excerpts of iMonk I have provided?
4. Spencer appeals to many readers for many reason. What do you think they are?I'll bet there are about half as many reasons as there are readers of his writing. Since I am not a fan, I have no way to give you insight there. I will note, for the record, that I think the reasons for being an iMonk fan have nothing to do with spiritual discernment.
5. Is it possible that often what he is says is glorifying to God and edifying to the saints?It is possible he could say such things. It is not in evidence, on-net, in what I have read or provided as evidence.
I need to end by telling you that from what I have read in your blog, I think you and I would get along swimmingly if we met in real life. You seem to me to be smart, funny and a true lover of the gospel and I really look forward to reading more on your blog.I cannot have lunch with everybody – even if you all paid. However, I hope this exchange gives you insight into what you are advocating and what I am advocating in this topic.