[*] Pants on fire

Now: before you read this post, let's remember something. I'm the one who has been accused of being "merciless" and "unChristian" in the topic, subject, approach and handling of the events at the blog in the last 142 weeks 7 days.

I'm the one who is the "bad guy".

Not the person who impersonated me to send the following e-mails to the guys at Fide-o:

Date: Wed, 30 Nov 2005 08:18:34 -0800 (PST)
From: "Jason Robertson"
Subject: Frank is this you? from Fide-O
To: carm_centuri0n@yahoo.com

Frank, we received several emails from someone claiming to be you. Scott, at first thought is was and out of respect for you removed some pics from one of my post. When I got home later and called him, he told me that upon further review that he thinks that this is not you because of a different spelling in the email name. Could you please clear this up for us. Thanks.

{And if you are wondering if this is /*really*/ me, call me at 951-XXX-XXXX}

Note: First message is attached. Below is another message that was sent as a follow up.


Tue, 29 Nov 2005 23:25:47 -0800 (PST)
From: Frank Turk (carm_centurion@yahoo.com)

I saw that the pictures were removed, and I thank you. I sent Scott an email because I thought he had orginally posted them. I hope removing them will heal the relationship between the two blog worlds. I started something I never intended too, and hope I can begin to mend the fences I tore down in my haste to have something juicy to blog on. I have asked Phil to not post anymore comics, and have asked Steve to back off the kicking of the EC for a while.

I really do not think any of us handled this like Christians, I was the ring leader.

Again Thanks

From: "Frank Turk" (carm_centurion@yahoo.com)
Sent: Tuesday, November 29th @ 8:21 pm
To: Scott @ Fide-o
Subject: thanks

I very much appreciate your apology on the comments section today, but you must know there is no hard feelings. I knew the editorial shrewdness of Fide-O would come through in the end. You guys have been a swimming edition to blogdom.

I have a rather awkward request considering everything that has transpired over the last few days. If possible could you take down the pics of the dead hogs. While I for one thought it was quite ingenous with the whole dual meanings, it was a tinge morbid. The only reason I ask is this. Phil has pretty much dropped it, but I am still getting 30 or so emails a day rebuking the callous nature of the handling of this little iMonk skirmish. Because of the violent nature of the pictures, I find it difficult to defend all those who have been involved. Mainly Phil, Steve, and you guys. If you don't remove them I will understand and do not think for a minute that there will be any ill will from this superhero. I am just asking as a favor.


I very much appreciate your apology on the comments section today, but you must know there is no hard feelings. I knew the editorial shrewdness of Fide-O would come through in the end. You guys have been a swimming edition to blogdom.

I have a rather awkward request considering everything that has transpired over the last few days. If possible could you take down the pics of the dead hogs. While I for one thought it was quite ingenous with the whole dual meanings, it was a tinge morbid. The only reason I ask is this. Phil has pretty much dropped it, but I am still getting 30 or so emails a day rebuking the callous nature of the handling of this little iMonk skirmish. Because of the violent nature of the pictures, I find it difficult to defend all those who have been involved. Mainly Phil, Steve, and you guys. If you don't remove them I will understand and do not think for a minute that there will be any ill will from this superhero. I am just asking as a favor.
So if you have any complaints about how this was handled, you can e-mail carm_centurion@yahoo.com and tell him what a great Christian witness it is to impersonate someone in order to get his friends to do things that they wouldn't otherwise do.

One other thing: if the person who did this will come foreward and confess, I won't press federal identity theft charges; if I have to press this through Yahoo and get an IP address for the person who opened this account, you can rest assured that I will turn that information over to the FTC for formal charges.

... see: but I'm the bad guy here ... sheesh ...

UPDATED: I have the spoofer's IP address from the e-mail headers. Should we start a pool, or is that too rude?

UPDATED: Jared @ Thinklings still thinks I'm bad, but he thinks even less of the person who did this. Thanks, Jared. I think. :)

UPDATED: See: I'm laying in bed right now with a 101° fever, and I think I'm hallucinating. Scott at fide-o was the spoofer?! I had an IP addy in or around LA, and I thought that maybe c.t. was trying a new flavor of troll sauce -- but Scott?

Dude: that was so not funny. And by "not funny" I mean, "I really did have the contact at the FTC bookmarked" kind of not-funny. If someone had given me 50 guesses and a list of 50 names to choose from, and your name had been on the list, I would have never picked you.

I'm going to have to reorder my world view after this one ... whoo boy ...

[*] It's a ZERO, not an "o"

I just got an e-mail from a fellow blogger, and he attached to that e-mail a couple of notes he has gotten in the last few days from someone at "carm_centurion@yahoo.com" who is calling himself "Frank Turk".

Yeah -- I know: what are the odds? However, this very alert blogger suddenly realized that he had been spoofed and e-mailed the notes to me. I am waiting for his comments on the matter to post the contents of the e-mail here at the blog, but let me ask you: did this person honestly think the truth would not come out?

We may never know who tried this stupid stunt, but given the contents of the e-mails, I'll bet it comes down to a relatively short list. Will the person responsible step forward? If not, why not?

Stay tuned. It's been a very dramatic week.

[*] This will make you sick

This guy lives about an hour from me. You can't read this and not see the case against abortion -- unless you accept the equation "death is better than poverty".

What really lights my fuse here is the co-opting of the term "born again".

I'll blog more about this later. You people talk about this while I'm gone.

[#] If nobody minds ...

... I have to get back to managing manufacturing capacities for the next 18 months for the sake of keeping a couple-three hundred people domestically employed for the foreseeable future. EDIT: I just got 2 e-mails a-fear'd that I was taking an 18-month hiatus; what I am doing is getting an 18-month manufacturing plan together, which will take a few days. Climb down off the ledge and have a glass of water, please. You can play 7 Sevens while I'm gone, or you can read Steve Hays' blog, or you can scold me for the single post in the last week which Phil Johnson thought went too far (AHA! If Phil is turning on him, there must be blood in the water!), or you could just launch iTunes and cool out. You could also pray about the headache I am having. It feels like someone hit me that the base of my skull on the right with a rolling pin. (do not ask how I know what that feels like)

Or you could roam the streets of SoCal looking for the punk whole stole Pecadillo's CDs and car stereo. That would be cool.

I gotta go.

centuri0n has now left the blog.

[?] Seven Sevens

Carla tagged me at my blog, so I'm going to do this to break up the "you beast! You blogged iMonk!" stuff here with this.

Seven things to do before I die:

1. Lead my parents to Christ, and baptize them into His church
2. Lead my children to Christ, and baptize them into His church
3. Lead my youngest brother to Christ, and baptize him into Christ's church
4. Be a better husband to my wife tomorrow than I was today (that's cumulative, not a singularity; think of what kind of world we would live in if every Christian man make this his prayer every night)
5. Open a second bookstore successfully; then a third if that doesn't kill me.
6. Write a book that gets published (any punk can write a book; getting published takes a special kind of insolence)
7. Be a better friend than I am today

Seven things I cannot do:

1. Sight-read Greek
2. Hebrew
3. Speaka foreign language
4. type with 10 fingers
5. Drop that last 10 lbs and get back to 170
6. Lie to people when the buy books that are going to hurt them
7. Drive slower than the speed limit

Seven things that attract me to my Wife:

1. She's smarter than me

2. She's hot

3. She's a great mom

4. She works hard

5. She's hot

6. Her Pork Chops

7. She's hot

Seven things I say most often:

1. "Actually ..." (also "Well ...")
2. "Pheh. Yuh."
3. "Where are my glasses?"
4. "Where are my keys?"
5. "What's for supper?"
6. "Sweet!"
7. "Dude!" (which is pronounced "dude" and not "DOOOOOOOOOOD!")

Seven books (or series) I love:

1. The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis
2. Reymond's Systematic Theology
3. Marriage on the Rock, Jimmy Evans
4. Kingdom Come, Alex Ross & Mark Wade
5. Unleashing God's Word in Your Life, John MacArthur
6. Don't Waste you Life, John Piper
7. Grasshopper on the Road, Arnold Lobel

Seven movies I would watch over and over again:

1. Spartacus
2. Magnificent Seven
3. Spiderman 1
4. It's a Wonderful Life
5. West Side Story (it's really sad, but the music is just fabulous)
6. Kung Fu Hustle
7. The Hunt for Red October

Seven people I want to join in, too:

1. Phil
3. Gummby
4. Jonathan
5. Hays
6. PP
7. Jason

[*] Another open letter

And let me say that, before I start on this one from Fat Triplets (which is, itself, a great name for a blog – though a trendy thinker would have called it "phat trois"), I appreciate that he makes an attempt to deal with what I said – even if he still makes the same mistakes that have come up again and again in dealing with my complaints about iMonk.
Mr. Turk
That'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:
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.
OK: shoot.
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” –

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.
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?

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:
1. What do you mean by emotionally unstable? How do you define it?
See above.
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.

[*] "Mental instability"

I just wanted to point out a fanscinating development in the Monk argument. "Broken Messenger" has apparently banned me from making comments on his blog -- even though he cannot even get my initial complaint against iMonk correct.

See: I'm the bad guy here. The fellow with the open comments and the wherewithal to cite the text I object to in large chunks so that the context can be read without the impairment of elipses or my own failed ability to paraphrase.

And for the record: look up the phrase "mental instability" in this blog. The only place you'll find it is in this particular post. When the advocates for iMonk's innocence can get that straight -- and they have yet to straighten that out -- they will have ample ground upon which to begin to address the issues I have been very particular to examine over the last 75 weeks 6 days.

[#] oh It's REAL. It's REAL!

So I've been blogging here about Michael Spencer, whom I have called a fraud, for what? A year? 57 weeks? On no: it's been about 6 calendar days. Anyway, I'm blogging about this fellow who says has said in the past has removed, posted and then password-protected essays about his somewhat-radical views about his own life and the church, and I think I have taken a pretty hard-line stand about his views.

And in that, that's really a day at the office for me. I take hard-line views. I hate it when Mormons say that their religion is "just like" mine. I hate it when people trade in their theological foundations for "pastoral theology". I hate it when popular pastors misrepresent the Gospel because they didn't finish seminary or possibly missed a week when the Prof was talking about soteriology. And when I say "I hate it" I do not mean "I hate them": I mean I hate that action.

So I have a problem here on Monday that those of you who are here trying to see where the squabble against iMonk is going to go are going to love: Jonathan Moorhead loves UFC. He loves it!

Should I de-blog-roll him? Excoriate him for his fleshly weakness? Complain that he is a hypocrite? Or should I invite him, Scott from Fide-o, Pecadillo, PyroManiac and some of the other "Truly Reformed" for Nachos and 7-Up to watch Ultimate Fight Night on January 16th instead of having our scheduled convocation of the Truly Reformed sinister international cabal?

I'm conflicted. Whatsoever shall I do?

UPDATED: We would also invite James White because James apparently feels left out of my social calendar. The cause is my own fault, and rather than apologize profusely with an empty hand, let there be nachos and soda pop as an offering of fellowship.

[#] Keeping it surreal

I woke up this morning with the urge to re-read the comments from yesterday's last post, and it turns out that there is someone funnier than me in the blogosphere -- and I owe him an apology!

New but faithful reader glenn made some really good funnies yesterday which I took the wrong way, and I apologize. His dead-pan delivery and spot-on spoof of the kinds of comments being posted here ... I admit it: I missed it the first 3 times I read the posts. And therefore I snarked him, and I was wrong.

Glenn: don't mind me. No excuses for taking a joke the wrong way.

[*] My G-D: I'm sm-g!

Well. In the realm of people writing blog posts that cannot be disagreed with without somehow giving the original writer the basis for saying, "See, I told you so," a person named "De" has blogged centuri0n with the following:
Why do some in the Christian blogosphere feel that the most important thing to do is to not just “win” an argument but also dance on your opponent’s grave?

Especially when the people arguing agree, as far as I can tell, on every real essential of the Christian faith.

I also don’t get the playground triumphalism. It’s the “I just kicked your a–, and now I’m going to crap in your hat” attitude.

Excuse my language, but there’s a reason that I’ve retreated from the more “provocative” corners of the God blogosphere. This is it.

It’s the pride I see. It’s the inability to, if you’re not going to help a wounded brother, at least resist the urge to crush your boots into his wounds. It’s pride and arrogance. Yes, truth needs to be defended. But if we treat eachother like dirt, what’s the point?

What on earth do we think we’re accomplishing? Why don’t more people stand up to this nonsense? Doesn’t anyone take James seriously anymore?
    And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

    - James 3:6 (ESV)
I expect comments [and ridicule] from people who don’t get what I’m saying.
In fairness to "De", the original post at Thinklings did link 3 times to this blog and to Phil Johnson (cf. the underlined text) in an effort to make her point. It's very generous to excoriate me and then link to me because then people might come here and see for themselves what exactly happened -- and find a whole new reason to start the verbal brawl all over again.

So a coupla-few notes on "De"'s comments for the sake of not disappointing.

(1) The t-shirt sales are going nicely, thank you. It is my best-selling item to date -- and the genius of it is that it's not all about one side of the argument. To say "I blogged iMonk" is not to say (as "De" vulgarly did) "I kicked iMonk's A--" or "now I'm going to cr@p in iMonk's hat" -- but to say "I was in the fray". See: it turns out that most people participating in this discussion were rushing to iMonk's defense. To "blog" some person (or persona, as Mr. Spencer has claimed) is not necessarily to "snark" some person (or persona). That a t-shirt is seen as "triumphalism" is to miss out on the point that a t-shirt is actually commerce -- and I make a little money ($1 per shirt, for the invasively-curious) by selling to the largest number of people.

(2) For those of you who are going to say, "Yeah, but the Bull's Eye ...", what about the Bull's Eye? Is there a picture of Michael Spencer on the Bull's Eye? Since I designed the shirt, I can say without any reservation that I intended the Bull's Eye to indicate comments that were on the mark. If you think that those who were positioned against my remarks about iMonk were not on the mark, welcome to the right side of the argument.

(3) I am always amused by people who wag James at anyone in the context of using words like "ass" and "crap". "But wait," comes the complaint, "De didn't say 'ass': De typed 'a--'. That's completely different."

I'm wondering: since when did "a--" attain the same status are "G-d" in the lexicon of common usage? Can anyone seriously advocate that De did not mean "ass" when De typed "a--"? What if I linked to a porn site to make a point in a blog post -- but only the PG-13 front page which did not itself have any porn on it? Would I be morally clean or morally culpable for sending people to a porn site? And how many of you clicked thru just now, proving my point that the link is as good as being there?

So until De can fix his vocabulary up to a place that conforms with James' admonition about the tongue, his lectures on godly speech are a little tone-deaf.

(3a) And just to be sure I said it, one of the essentials of the Christian faith is that there is something precious about God's church -- and specifically about God's ministers. When someone can prove that iMonk's rants about the Christian life upholds those essentials, your monkey can then dance whilst you grind the organ.

(4) Thank God De is not a sinner like that wretched publican centuri0n. I'm sure that is going to raise a lot of hackles, but there you go. Blog it. But do so in a way that conforms to your view of how we ought to treat people that are flat-out wrong that doesn't exempt you from the standard you want to establish.

(5) What I am trying to accomplish -- since De asked, and since it seems that having made my point about 50 ways to Sunday I might as well find another way to do it -- is to expose iMonk as a fraudulent persona (or person, depending on who you ask) who does not have a credible place in the blogosphere.

The problem is that those who are all worked up about this discussion want to change the goal from "is iMonk a credible person?" to "is talking about this using both humor and facts really 'Christian'?"

When Dave Barry lampoons anything, it's humor and nobody flinches -- he's popular, and he's generally seen as family-friendly at least to the teen-aged level. Dennis Swanberg -- very funny, and he lampoons Billy Graham who is old and sick. I think the jury is still out on Brad Stine -- though I'm not sure anyone thinks Stine is offensive, the question is whether he is funny.

And I list those three examples not to say, "and my stuff is just as good as theirs." I list those three examples to say that there is plenty of room for humor and lampoon in the realm of family-friendly -- and even Christian -- dialog. The problem is when those who are the subject of the lampoon don't get the jokes.

So De: I hope this fulfilled your prophecy that you would be misunderstood and you would also be ridiculed. I would hate to see perfectly good spiritual gifts neglected for the sake of one blog post.

[*] getting told real good

Listen: who knew that so much good blog material would come out of one 43-word comment at Fide-o's blog?

Marla made her blog debut here with this gem:
Humor is always a cover up.
Why is this comment so precious? Because it can mean anything! What does she mean by a "cover up"? Who can tell?

It appears, however, that whatever humor is "covering up", Marla thinks iMonk has actually done the right thing and "disrobed":
It takes courage to bare your soul and it grieves me that one believer would mock another believer's contrite spirit...to the point that the post has been removed and is no longer available as a warning/wake-up call for those who might stumble into the same pitfalls.
She means the George Clooney joke. See: I think that the only way the joke makes sense is if what George Clooney said in that short report has some obvious relationship to what iMonk has said in the past.

If iMonk were being "confessional" in his posts, then they would have no relationship to what George Clooney said in this article! Now why is that? A "confession" is a statement of guilt paired with a statement of repentence. There's no repentence in what iMonk has written -- because look at how vigorous his defense is for saying those things.

She continues:
My mom attends a Baptist seminary and daily witnesses young men taking the very same road as Michael--she wanted to pass out his testimony to all of them. What he wrote is not self-loathing but a part of his journey of dying to self and allowing Jesus to transform him, as all of us are called to do. It's not say a magic prayer, read your Bible and then never look another sin in the face for the rest of your life!
Now how does anyone expect me to keep the blog clean when such self-refuting nonsense is foisted as justification for saying something like (or words to this effect) "entering the ministry was the worst mistake of my life" in spite of that person's unwillingness to leave the ministry?

Here's what you just said, Marla: iMonk's testimony ought to be an encouragement to young men who are entering the ministry. In what other way are we supposed to see the statement "What he wrote is not self-loathing but a part of his journey of dying to self and allowing Jesus to transform him" but as the basis for saying iMonk is a hero of the faith, and his "confessions" edify rather than excoriate church life and the ministry?

Because he still sticks with it, even after he claims to hate it and to think of his life as, essentially, ruined?

If I wrote tomorrow, "I think starting this blog was the worst mistake of my life: it punished my family, ruined my professional life, exposed me to hypocrites, and has worn me down emotionally and physically," yet I continued blogging, would you see that as an encouragement to blog, or as a warning to others not to blog.

How about if I wrote, "I think taking crystal meth was the worst mistake of my life: it punished my family, ruined my professional life, exposed me to hypocrites, and has worn me down emotionally and physically"? Is that an encouragement, or does it sound like a warning to others?

Sorry to make your acquaintance this way, but I am really distressed about "the jokes" of this past week (not just on this blog). They are definitely in the "coarse" department and go even beyond that to tearing down fellow believers. At least you could remove the words taken out of context and the hurtful generalizations. You don't, after all, even know the man.
No way. No way -- not for real money and a new iBook. The accusation that I snatched some words out of context is completely baseless -- given the sheer girth of text I copied from iMonk's blog, and the supplemental post he made linking to his other such "confessions" which I missed.

Over the last two days I have been thinking about this exchange. The first question I asked myself was this: if the tables were turned, and someone was making accusations of me that I thought had no basis, how would I respond? For example, if iMonk set up his own café press shop with a t-shirt that said, "centuri0n is a booger nose -- internetmonk.com", would I break out the violin and start playing "woe is me"?

The answer is "probably no". I'd design some more t-shirts. I'd make some more jokes. And I'd probably make some more posts like this one -- which is almost entirely empty of genuine comedy. Now why is that? Is it because I am "covering up" something? Or is it because the jokes expose more about my point than any humorless "truly reformed" (ugh! I am smote!) monologue on the inadequacies of stereotypes and informal banter ever could? As for not knowing the man, I have read enough to know that I have read enough.

One of my centerpiece posts of the last year was a beaut called "Free Blog Advice". I wrote is almost 2 months before the iMonk controversy broke out, and I think it is completely applicable to this situation.

[?] New T-Shirt

Visit the pawn shop for details.

[#] A White flag, or the Laundry?

Apparently iMonk has had enough, and I can't say I blame him -- although if we apply the "spell the name correctly" chapter of Emily Post, iMonk has apparently slapped Steve Hays in the face, starting the whole intifada all over again.

I can't shut off my comments, but you can exercise self-control. Please do so.

[*] It must be Christmas

One can blog without even trying very hard.

Apparently, UFOs are a bigger threat to the Canadian government than the threat of terrorism. I can prove this is true from the results of my Frappr! map -- check out "Bryan from Winnipeg, Manitoba".

It is also possible that George Clooney and iMonk have something in common. Not gonna say what it is.

[?] The New Color Scheme

This is called "fire".

I'm actually working on one for the Christmas season, so don't go blind with the yellow.

Love to see comments on this scheme.

[?] TOTALLY Worth it!

Dude: the black stoner T. You want one. It's totally worth it.

And just in time for the Christmas season. What's that all about?

[*] Who is "we"?

The sad thing is that this controversy has bumped a really good turkey recipe down the blog. Don't miss out.

I hope you're following the blog, it's meta, and the cross-blogging that has been going on, because I am 100% sure I could not recap the story thus far. I will only recap one statement I made, and the question it has raised.

I said:
Here's what I think: we should not allow emotionally unstable people to speak on behalf of Christianity in any respect. The flaw in your argument in favor of treating iMonk like a sick person who wants to get well is that he doesn't want to get well. He wants to be who he says he is right now because it gives him street cred. If iMonk gave up his "I'm a wounded pastor" riff, he'd have no basis for making any of his criticisms.
The Greek chorus has responded with the refrain, "Who is 'we'?"

It seems to me that my use of the first-person plural pronoun was obvious. The first part of "we" is "me": I include myself in the "we" who should not allow emotionally unstable people (hereafter EUPs) to speak for Christianity. The next part of "we" is "Jared", who has a somewhat-popular (last I checked, it's top 50 TTLB) group blog. So "we" also means the other Thinklings. I think Jared and the Thinklings should not let EUPs speak for Christianity.

And Jared said himself:
We're all grownups here, right? Can't we be honest with each other without deflecting everything with sarcasm?
So Jared seems to think that "we" (he and I) are discussing something here, thus "we" ought to be able to say what "we" ought to do or ought not to do. Jared, the Thinklings and I should not let EUPs speak for Christianity.

I think that's a fair "we" -- a handful of guys who are blogging for the sake of the Gospel. However, let me be clear that I don't just mean a handful guys. When I say "we" here, I mean myself, Jared, and anyone reading who considers himself a blogger for Christ. So when I say "we", I mean, "anyone reading this blog, and anyone who cares about how the Gospel is being communicated to all people, should not let EUPs speak for Christianity."

And it is possible that this is my private opinion, formed in the solipsistic void that has formed between my ears, and if that's the case, we shouldn't let EUPs like me speak for Christianity. But it turns out that I know another guy who said something like this once:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Do we have to ask who this fellow is refering to when he says "my brothers"? The admonition here is that when we face trials -- and I think it turns out that this fellow here means trials as believers from both inside and outside the church (cf. James 2) -- we should not be claiming "woe is me! Christian service was the worst mistake of my life!", but instead we should count the trials as a joy toward our perfection in Christ.

I wonder why this fellow did not say, "My brothers, and sisters, and those who are church people, and you who are listening from inside the church, including your elders, whenever any of you find yourself in a trial in the Christian life, remember that that I have been persecuted by my own relatives -- those filthy Christ-killing Jews! Whatever you are going through, I have been through worse and I feel your pain. It's a good thing we have each other around to share our war-stories, because I am sure that the 'truly regenerate' over in Ephesus like that jerk Paul and his toady Timothy would never understand what we are going through. I don't blame Demas for getting out of the ministry -- I wish I had that kind of gumption."

For the record, those who didn't understand "we" might not understand that I am not actually "wondering": it's a rhetorical device that underscores irony and/or sarcasm. I don't wonder why James didn't say this, but it might be useful to think about if you have never thought about it yourself.

[#] ... and we sneak this one in ...

Steve Hays

Complaints about the doctored time stamp will be ignored. I admit it: I doctored the time stamp.

[*] Complaints about prayer

Those of you who want to complain about me asking for prayer for Michael Spencer need to do two things:

(1) Do a blog search on this blog (the google bar on the right can help you) for the phrase "pray for", and find out how seriously or jokingly I take that phrase. After you find out, don't bother apologizing: fix your eyes on the point of what I was saying when I asked for prayer.

(2) If you still want to complain, do so here. I'm not going to respond to complaints about asking for prayer in the other thread.

[*] Another turkey recipe

Most of you know him as "internet monk", but he is plainly Michael Spencer, and before the boom gets lowered, I owe Michael Spencer an apology:

I misspelled his name in the comments at fide-o, and because that (along with calling him "Spencer" and not "Michael" or "Mr. Spencer") is apparently rude, he has taken offense. So: Sorry for the typo, iMonk.

The really crazy thing about iMonk's anger is that what I said in that post was that his self-loathing disqualifies him from being a credible critic of the Christian church -- and, apparently, he wasn't angry about that. Well, wait: let's put the whole thing in the blog here so no one misses the set-up:
Michael Spencer said...

>1. Emergent- someone who rejects the established culture...

I realize that by speaking I have identified myself with the evil
that is emergent, but be that as it may...

Are you saying that Christianity is about supporting the
"established" culture, and that the oppostion to the emergent church
should be similar to the condemnation of the counter culture by the
mainstream culture gatekeepers in the 1950's?

I mean, the "hippies," were a cultural movement that had hundreds of
manifestations, from Woodstock to the Jesus Movement. They were
wrong in their "answers," but their opposition to racism, etc was
certainly preferable to the establishment's acceptance of some of
those culturally accepted sins.

I'm a bit confused. I might agree that a kind of shallow stylistic
fixation typifies some quarters of the emergent movement (and every
movement, including Macarthur Calvinism, etc.) But it seems to me
that the emergent critque of evangelicalism- right or wrong- goes a
bit deeper than beads and pony tails.

5:18 PM

kerri said...

Perhaps you just don't understand the whole EC conversation. May I
suggest that you sit in a comfortable position in your inner prayer
sancturary and increase your contemplative prayer mantra to 40
minutes per day instead of the perscribed 20? You also should
incorporate some good yoga moves.

When everyone joins together in contemplative prayer, a higher plain
of understanding is gained, crime in your area drops 15%, and the
chances of Hillary Clinton in the white house in 2008 increases

see you at the pubs ~

7:16 PM

centuri0n said...

Spenser: your view of Emergent is biased by your jaundiced view of
the contemporary church. I complain about some of the trends in
Evangelidom, but your hatred of Christian life (starting with your
own) disqualifies you from being a reasonable commentator.

Merry Christmas.

Scott: I am glad that I am not the only one who was thinking what
you here wrote. Nice job.

8:20 PM

Michael Spencer said...

Mr. Turk:

You misspelled my name, and calling me by my last name is considered
rude. You'll forgive me for pointing this out.

Let me invite you to go to your blog and write whatever you want
about me. I'm eager to hear you out.

>but your hatred of Christian life (starting with your own)

What are you talking about?

michael@internetmonk.com if you have the spine.

8:57 PM

centuri0n said...

"if I have the spine"?

And it's not even Christmas yet ...

8:42 AM
So, in the spirit of Mr. Spencer's concern for my chiropractic health and his own sense of well being – and at the risk of having the iMonk blog *again* removed from the internet and Mr. Spenser going into some kind of counseling program -- let me keep it short and sweet.

Three good examples of Michael Spencer's self-loathing as a Christian:

The first thing I want to say to Denise, Noel and Clay is how much I regret the day I walked forward and said I believed God was “calling” me to be a preacher. There was no one to guide me, and no one to talk to me. There was no one to help me reconsider. No one told me the first thing about preparation, education, money or the life of a minister. I had no models- just a few heroes- and no one to help me see the real-world substance of my choice. I walked that aisle with good intentions, zeal, a love for God, a desire to be useful and a bunch of other things. Still, I was 15. I was a child making a decision that would consume his whole life.

It was, I’m convinced, the great mistake of my life.

I regret it so much today that my bones hurt to think about it. Why wasn’t there someone, somewhere who could have talked to me about my life? Why wasn’t there someone in my family, or at my school or at my church, who could have told me that I could be an english teacher and a preacher? Why didn’t someone tell me what it meant to be the pastor of a church? There were so many options, but I never knew them. I simply plunged ahead.

So what in the world was going on? Why did our churches and seminaries have covenants and rules that said drinking was wrong, and that drinkers were under the threat of church/institutional discipline? Why did we bind the conscience on the issue of teetotalism, without a verse of scripture that required it? Why was alcohol use of any kind,- not just abuse, but moderate, responsible use- held up as a sign of bad character? Why was it such a big deal among leaders? When so many of them drank?

Why were we all involved in this lie?

I came to understand a bit more of the dynamics of the churches I had been a part of as they choose leaders. Divorce and drinking were always the two big issues with leadership. No one cared about anything else. The big questions were, “Has he ever been divorced?” and “Does he drink?” Now I realize that the second could not be taken for granted at all, even among those who answered correctly. There was enough duplicity on the issue of drinking to make fools of everyone. So it became the policy that we acted like everyone was dry as the Dust Bowl, nodding at the official position of the church, amening the crusaders, while the truth simply sat there, on ice.

It was like a bunch of GM execs who had Toyotas at home in the garage. It was like owners of Kentucky Fried Chicken eating their meals at Chick-fil-A. It was like nodding when the evangelist preached on the evils of drink while you had a bottle of wine and a six-pack in the basement fridge. It was exactly like that.

This all worked for me, and when I had been out of seminary two years, I found myself at a church that would pay for the degree and give me the time and opportunity to complete it. So, in 1986, as the associate minister for youth at a large, county seat Baptist church, I decided to enroll in the Doctor of Ministry program at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

[Insert here a very long story of bad choices, more bad choices, leaving my associate’s job and taking a pastorate close to Louisville, bad luck, poor decisions and outrageous shoddy treatment from people who said they would support me. You don’t want to read it, and I don’t want to write it.]

The bottom line: I did very well. I finished everything in the program….except for doing a final research project and writing my paper. Why? My faculty supervisor went on an unannounced sabbatical. My field supervisor was 3 hours away. My church leaders were tired of their pastors being students and they didn’t care about me being “Dr. Spencer.” Suddenly, finishing the degree was going to be a fight- a fight I wasn’t ready for.

I faltered. My deadlines passed and I dropped the program without my degree.
I am not a quitter. I’ve never failed or dropped a class in my entire 19+ year educational journey. Actually, my life would be considerably better in many ways if I were an occasional quitter, but I’m not that sort of person. I stay and work until I’m done. I show up when no one else cares to be there. But I dropped out of Southern’s D. Min program, with 37 hours of classwork finished, just a few weeks from completion, and with no degree.

I hated myself for quitting, and by 1991, I had asked Southern if I could reenroll in the D. Min program. Technically, they should have asked me to redo all the requirements. Insstead, they were gracious, and said I could simply retake the research class, do the project and graduate.

I took the class, but by now my pastorate had driven me into a mental and emotional state that was paralyzing. My marriage was a disaster, and I was in no shape to complete the degree. I finished the research class and just went home, the entire dream of my doctoral program defeated ever since.

I just typed that this “was” devastating for me, but I corrected it. This failure to earn the degree is devastating for me today. As I get older, I feel the pain of that failure more and more. I feel the losses of opportunity. I look at my peers who earned the D.Min degree, most of whom do not read or write seriously, or love academics of any kind, and I am profoundly disappointed in myself. It hurts and it burns, and though sometimes I don’t think much about it, at other times it is a haunting daily regret.

Let's keep something in mind as we read Mr. Spencer's work here: this is not about proving he's not a Christian. Really: I have no idea if he's a Christian or not. What these examples prove is that he regrets almost every decision he has ever made in being in a ministry role in the church, he resents the treatment he received in the midst of making decisions he admits were bad (either based on the results or based on some standard), and in that he has a predisposition against the church as it exists today.

So when he comes out and endorses Emergent, or anything else related to the church, we have to frame his views with the frame he has built. These links don't require any commentary.

However, in light of these links, I'd like to call on the readers of this blog to do something: please pray for Michael Spencer. Pray for his ministry. Pray for his family. Pray for his motives. Pray for his broken emotional state. Pray that he will see Christ's church the way Christ sees it.

[?] centuri0n's thanksgiving turkey recipe

Well, they say that a Turkey recipe will get hits this close to the season, so I'm going to give you my recipe for roasting a Turkey in order to add content that everyone can use to the blog.

You do not have to be "truly reformed" to use this recipe. You just have to like Turkey and stuffing.

Roasting a turkey isn't as hard as it sounds. Here's a basic recipe to get you started. In this case, the turkey is stuffed. DO NOT stuff the turkey and put it in the fridge overnight: that's bacteriologically a bad idea, and we want you all to enjoy Thanksgiving on the sofa, not on a hospital gurney.


12- to 14-lb. turkey, thawed if purchased frozen
1 bag, your favorite "Italian" croutons
2-4 bouillon cubes
2-3 stalks, celery, chopper or cubed
1 cup carrots, chopped
½ cup onions, finely chopped
1 tsp, dried parsley
1 cup, cashews
Pepper and Garlic Salt

  1. Preheat your oven to 325. Remove the cooking racks, then place one rack into oven at the lowest position.

  2. Unwrap your THAWED Turkey in a clean sink, and remove the giblets – that bag of stuff that you never thought you would use for anything because it looks gross. It's not gross. You may have to unhook the metal clip which holds the legs together in order to get all the giblets out; you may have to run some warm water into the bird to get the giblets out. Don't be afraid.

  3. Start a medium-sized pot of water boiling – not more than 3 cups. Put your packet of giblets in the water (sans wrapping paper), along with your bouillon cubes and the carrots, celery and parlsey. 2 cubes will make a somewhat-mild flavored stuffing; 6 will make a very salty and spicy stuffing. You know what you like best, so add the cubes to the low end of your tolerance for spicy. For your reference, I usually use 4 cubes. Boil this mix for about 30 minutes – long enough to cook the giblets thoroughly.

  4. While the soup (yes: you very smart readers knew that we were making soup, didn't you?) is cooking, wash the Turkey thoroughly, inside and out. I wouldn't use soap as you might miss a spot in the rinse and ruin your hours of hard work here, but washing the bird is an important health safety tip. If we were deep frying the bird (that's the Christmas recipe), washing is pretty much unimportant because if some germ can survive the deep fryer, it will kill you before you eat any of the dinner. Anyway, clean the bird thoroughly and put it in a large roasting pan. For this recipe, the deeper the roasting pan, the better. I suggest a large disposable roasting pan from WAL*MART even though it might possibly ring up at the wrong price.

    If you get bored waiting for the soup to finish up, this would be a good time to rub salt and pepper into the skin of your bird. Visually, salt and pepper the skin so that it looks like very light TV static. Do the top (the breast side) and the bottom (where the shoulders are); do not worry if you put less on the breast side. Because of the way this bird is going to cook, pay special attention to salting and peppering the wings and drumsticks.

  5. You now have a clean, prepped bird and a very delicious-smelling pot of soup. You have to make stuffing now. Remove the soup from the heat and remove the giblets. If you are a complete carnivore (like me), take the fully-cooked giblets to your food chopper and chop them up and put them back into the soup (you can't chop up the neck, but if you have 20 minutes, de-bone the neck and put your neck meat into the soup).

    Those of you grossed out by chopping up the giblets can throw them away. The rest of us will weep for you.

    Now empty the bag of croutons into the soup. If you used about 2 cups of water, you will get a somewhat-damp bread-and-soup mixture; if you used about 3 cups of water, you will get a very wet bread-and-soup mixture. I like the latter better, but some people like their stuffing more dry than others. The extraordinary secret here is that a soupier stuffing makes for a more-moist bird in the final product. After the soup and the bread are well- mixed, add the cashews and mix again.

  6. When you have this mixing complete, use a tablespoon and start loading the stuffing into the bird. Pack the stuffing down into the bird to get the cavity of the body completely full of stuffing. Don't leave any air pockets. Once the Turkey is completely stuffed, position it in the roasting tray breast-side down (I learned that from watching Emeril) in the center of the pan, and load the pan with the rest of your stuffing mix.

  7. Cover the Turkey, and place it inside your oven. After 2 hours in the heat, remove the cover and roast for another hour. In this final hour, the skin of the exposed parts should turn golden brown. At the end of the third hour, test the bird with a meat thermometer; the center temperature should be 175-180 degrees F. It will be the most unbelievable bird you every ate.

[#] What's right is right

I said this yesterday:
I applaud Mr. Webb for wanting to do the good works; I question why, if Francis is an advocate of the standard, he does not abide by the other matters at stake in this rule.

Honestly: we know why. Mr. Webb is not a Catholic (I would pessimistically add "yet"). He does not abide by the rules of ecclesiastical hierarchies, and yet at least half of the point of Francis' rule he is citing is specifically for the sake of maintaining ecclesiastical order.
Upon review and based on some comments I have seen about this post, I'd like to apologize for the text in red. It was over the top, uncalled for, and worst of all, it was intended to insult. I didn't start out the series on the Derek Webb interview to insult, but I managed to do it anyway.

I apologize to Derek Webb and to those fans of his who read this and were rightly put off by it. I was wrong to say such a thing in the manner clearly intended here.

[*] More on Challies' interview of Derek Webb

- Welcome Boar's Head tavern readers -

You'd think if I was going to comment on the Challies interview with Derek Webb, I would be brushing up on, say, emergent apologetics or perhaps re-read the Institutes to make the finest show of what I had to say.

You'd think that, wouldn’t you? Instead I watched Kung Fu Hustle and Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind before re-reading the interview. Kung Fu Hustle is not even escapist: it's outrageous comic book stuff, and the only way to get it is to be a life-long comic book reader. It only makes sense in the context of archetypes and stereotypes, so if you're not into that kind of thing you should avoid it. I thought it was completely fabulous, a 4-star flick for its genre. What genre? The same genre as Curt Russell's Big Trouble in Little China and any of the better Jackie Chan movies.

Eternal Sunshine requires a second viewing and a whole blog entry of its own. I suggest to you, to whet your appetite, that it is proof that people with utterly secular and unregenerate minds know the truth about their lives but try to convince themselves that it's OK to be that way and that they should like it. I'll flesh that out in the future.

BTW, if there are any topics about which I have said "I'll flesh that out in the future" for which you are dying to read my promised follow-up and I have never followed up, you should remind me. I'm just one guy, and I don’t really have a master plan for the blog except that it either spreads the Gospel or makes me rich.

That said, let's think about something for a moment: is that really very much of a master plan? For example, if my master plan for the blog is actually either wealth or the spiritual enlightenment of others, can those two polar opposites actually constitute the same master plan?

I would suggest to you that they cannot. The statement "I don’t really have a master plan for the blog except that it either spreads the Gospel or makes me rich" either has to be a joke or a lie, right? Billy Graham, Pat Robertson and James Dobson notwithstanding, one of the objectives of spreading the Gospel ought not to be to get rich. It's a non-sequitur. Yes: you have to eat, and you have to wear clothes, and most of the time you have to spend money to do those things. But if you are spreading the Gospel to get rich -- or if you ultimately fool yourself into thinking that since you are getting rich by doing what you are doing, and you call what you are doing "spreading the Gospel" -- you are somewhat of a moron, spiritually.

I want you to think about that in the context that I own a Christian bookstore, OK? I don’t want anyone to say that somehow I don’t apply that standard to myself. For example, we throw away books that come in on bargain pallets that we know are written by people who reject the Gospel. We don’t sell rosaries (send your hate mail here). We work hard to educate our staff in the right way to address people who do not understand the basics of Bible translation, or who come in trying to peddle non-Christian spirituality as the Gospel, and we work to help people move from bad self-educational choices to good self-educational choices -- even if it means we don’t always make the first sale to them.

And I say all that to say this: there is no doubt that the Gospel has (on the one hand) clear consequences on our lives and (on the other hand) clear admonishment against the things we ought to studiously avoid. The Gospel is not some vague platitude that you can interpret any way you want to in order to be relevant to where you are right now. Seriously: what complete rubbish it is to think that you can make that message -- that begins and ends with a God Almighty who is completely in charge of the universe and has, as the main course of its philosophical feast that not only is man not good enough to please God, he is also not strong or smart or big or fast or clever or anything enough to save himself from being under God's wrath – into a message that appeals to people like a marketing campaign or a good political slogan.

Then let's begin to address Challies' interview with Derek Webb from the standpoint that, in principle, I agree with Mr. Webb that there is a supernatural aspect of the Gospel and a "natural" or common-place aspect of the Gospel, and these aspects cannot be separated from each other. The question, as with the shyster who thinks that the Gospel is good business, is whether the conclusions we come to from that place are compatible with the Gospel.

An interesting place to start this commentary is with this statement from Mr. Webb:

The way we proclaim that kingdom is by putting our hands to that. So you see someone who is hungry and you proclaim to them a kingdom where there will be no hunger by putting food in their mouth. If someone is ill or sick you proclaim to them the kingdom where there will be no sickness by caring for them or giving them lifesaving drugs. I think that is probably what St. Francis might have meant when he said to "proclaim the gospel at all times and if necessary use words." That is his famous quote. I really think that is exactly what he could have meant. We go into culture and proclaim the coming of Jesus' kingdom where all things will be made right by putting our hands to "the being made right of all things" and of course there is the literal proclamation of his showing up on the scene that we also need to tell people.
This is an interesting statement from Mr. Webb because of his use of St. Francis of Assisi here. It turns out that, if you do 5 minutes of research on this phrase, these are not Francis' words at all. It is in fact a bad paraphrase of Francis' Rule of the Order from 1221:
Let no friar preach against the form and arrangement of Holy Church nor unless it has been conceded to him by his minister. And let the minister beware of himself, lest he indiscreetly concede (this) to anyone. However let all the friars preach by works. • And let no minister or preacher appropriate to himself the office of minister or the office of preaching, but in whatever hour it has been enjoined upon him, let him without any contradiction surrender his office.

Whence I beseech in the Charity, which God is (cf. 1 Jn 4:16), all my friar preachers, prayers, workers, clerics as much as lay (brothers), that they strive to humble themselves in all things, not to glory nor rejoice in themselves nor to exalt themselves interiorly because of the good words and deeds, indeed because of no good thing, which God does or says or works at any time in them and through them, according to what the Lord says: "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you" (Lk 10:20). And let us know firmly, that nothing pertains to us, except vices and sins. • And we ought to rather rejoice, "when" we would fall "into various temptations" (cf. Jm 1:2) and when we would sustain whatever kind of difficulties of soul or body, or of tribulation in this world for the sake of eternal life.
What Francis is here exhorting his brother friars to is not silent "random acts of kindness" but a kind of humility which was absent from the monastic orders in his day. His order here is not to preach with works first then with words, but to hold one's self in the right perspective and not to seek after any great station in life.

Now why is this bit of nit-picking important? I'll give two reason that I think are important:

(1) In the least case, if we are going to use Francis as an example of what we are talking about in terms of the physical ministry of the Gospel, we should portray him as he was and not as we would like him to be. He certainly thought that doing good works were the central part of his order's mission -- but that was, in part, because his order was setting out to reform monastic abuses. If we are going to use this example to underscore Mr. Webb's idea that the believer ought to do more things in Gospel ministry, we should at least ask him who then gave him the permission to preach this truth through his music and his extensive portfolio of writings. Francis' point is highly nuanced -- touching on the attitude of monastic service, the kind of aspirations a friar should have, the kinds of service appropriate for the life in the order, and the relationship the order ought to have to "the church". I applaud Mr. Webb for wanting to do the good works; I question why, if Francis is an advocate of the standard, he does not abide by the other matters at stake in this rule.

Honestly: we know why. Mr. Webb is not a Catholic (I would pessimistically add "yet"). He does not abide by the rules of ecclesiastical hierarchies, and yet at least half of the point of Francis' rule he is citing is specifically for the sake of maintaining ecclesiastical order. In that, we have to be careful in letting a statement like this wedging itself into a place in this discussion where it doesn't belong.

(2) It indicates the loose sort of reasoning Mr. Webb uses to jump from point to point. To be specific, if this is how he handles a merely-historic source, how can we trust him to handle the word of God better?

Of course, we need to offer some charity here -- because I certainly do not deny the point, as the book of James says clearly, that true religion is to visit widows and orphans in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world, that we are to be doers of the word and not just people who say "amen" when the pastor gets into his Calvinism riff. Nobody is denying that the very core of Christian life is doing the things that the Gospel says to do, and that the Gospel does not just say that we should look forward to a resurrected life and yammer on about theological paradigms, but that we should be living right now as a life resurrected from the sinfulness and death we lived before.

So the charity is this: I agree with the principle Mr. Webb here is advocating on-net. What I question is the method for advocating that principle which he uses here -- which is not a fair treatment of sources but a lopsided treatment of a source which is not necessarily saying what Mr. Webb is trying to say.

What is far worse, unfortunately, is what comes next in this answer to the first question Tim asked:

And I really think that the other half of that gospel is so neglected that it was worth devoting a record to.
Listen: I'm a complainer about the state of the church in the U.S. I admit it. There's no question that the American Church is frankly in disarray. It's sickening. But one of the reasons it is sickening, all told, turns out not to be that the church doesn’t do good works.

Now, how do I justify saying that? Well, let's think about Hurricane Katrina for a second, shall we? What was the largest private relief force on the ground for that disaster? Some of you are about to say, "Red Cross", and that'd be pretty close. The problem is that the agency actually putting the most people on the ground may have been under the umbrella of the Red Cross, but they were a little group known as the North American Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Yup: conservative evangelicals turn out to be the largest relief organization in America.

Let's also look at poverty relief in Africa. As you may have seen in my previous posts on this subject, private American donations to African relief equal the total contributions made by France or Germany or Canada, or any number of combinations of European countries. What my previous posts didn’t outline was that most of this money comes not just from "private" organizations but from "religious" organizations. And that money, for the most part, isn’t just shoveled into a furnace blindly: it is directed to particular missionary activity that includes food and medicine and infrastructure.

To say that "the other half of the Gospel is neglected" is a vague accusation at best. Before I get all cylinders firing here, let's move on and see what Mr. Webb does to flesh out his concern in particular in order to see if he's talking about things that can be fixed -- or ought to be. For that sake, I am going to pass over a comment he makes in this first question, reserving the right to amend and revise my remarks in the future.

In the next question he includes this reply:
And I think that anybody can tell you that when you study a lot of theology and you study a lot of God's character and you study his attributes you get into a very theological type of discourse. That is a great thing to do. That is a great foundation to have. But if that theology never turns into ethics then it can become a real idol because the rubber of theology must meet the road of ethics at some point or the other or else it's not informing how we truly love the people around us. It's all very theoretical. Being very well trained in theology but having it never affect your ethics, we run the risk of being nothing more than ringing cymbals and clanging gongs.
And who isn’t going to say "Amen" to that? Theology is not just a comfy chair where we read a good book: in case you missed it in my on-going series on orthodoxy, theology ought to be the basis for all the decisions we make.

Let me be clear here that there are two kinds of error that good theology ought to head off: the first is the error that we ought to do nothing; the second is that what we ought to do has no direct relationship to our theological bedrock. Now, in theory, Mr. Webb is against both of these errors as he elaborates in his "rubber and the road" analogy. But does he actually practice this opposition?

He eventually says this:
I have a certain view of the way God governs all things, I think those are the main distinctives of the Reformed tradition, and of course I believe that. And that is part of who I am and that's part of how I see the world. ...
... there has been a little bit of a mutiny happening because there are some folks who are more into Reformed theology (and I think that might have been what first attracted them to me) and they are starting to get a little nervous. A few of them have started to jump ship because I think my views on the role of social justice in the life of the believer might begin to take a turn from typical Reformed theology on some of these points. And that's okay with me because, again, I didn't sign up to be the poster boy. And so what's starting to happen is that there are some really Reformed folks who are starting to get a little nervous who have typically been the ones who have blindly come to my defense, no matter what I would do, because I think I've been so predictable to them.
The italics are mine, not Challies'. This gets back to my intro comments: your premises ought to determine your conclusions. For example, if you think that the Gospel is good news spiritually but you do not think that the spiritual world has any interaction with the day to day way things run in the material world, you can claim you're "born again" and then live any way you want. But if you believe that you cannot view the world as if everything on the left-handed spiritual world never interacts with the right-handed material world because Christ was God incarnate, and God is therefore active in this world, you cannot claim that you have received spiritual renewal and then sit on your spiritual size-48 butt.

In the same way, reformed theology is not a new player on the block. It is a pretty astonishing thing when you study it. It has a lot of philosophical moxie outside of the centerpiece of the Gospel because it has, as its centerpiece, the Gospel. It has political ramifications; it has social ramifications; it has interpersonal ramifications; it has economic ramifications. And, for the most part, those implications have been spelled out by some pretty smart fellas -- and I don’t mean just Steve Hays.

So when Derek Webb turns out not to advocate the rest of Reformed theology's world view, we have to ask the question, what does he mean when he says, "that is part of who I am and that's part of how I see the world"? Doesn’t compartmentalizing the high view of God's sovereignty and the finished work of the cross from the rest of one's worldview do exactly what Mr. Webb has, up to this point, advocated against in saying that the two prongs of the Gospel -- love God, love your neighbor -- must come together in the life of the believer?

This is going to wrap up part 1 of this discussion, but here's what gets me about where this conversation inevitably goes from here: Somehow, because the last 30 or 50 years of American Christian history have been an ideological battle against disastrous theological errors -- like diluting the authority of Scripture, and radical individualism, and secular hegemony, and atheism -- folks like Mr. Webb and a whole host of smart guys think that the church has given up on anything but the theoretical doctrinal positions of the faith. And in that, they say, "fine: good. Doctrine. I'll put on a reformed t-shirt for the sake of argument, but what about this idea that there should be economic justice? What about loving gay people? What about war?" And they ask these questions as if Reformed theology and the Bible do not answer these questions clearly and frankly, with significant "rubber meets the road" applications to the problems at-hand.

This is a pretty slippery fish that Mr. Webb tosses out on the table, and we'll see if, over the next few installments, he has any kind of a grip on it that gets it off the table and onto the frying pan.

[#] LibraryThing

HT: Steve Hays.

I have something called a POS system that catalogs all my books, but if you can't drop $10K on hardware, maybe this will help you catalog all your books.

It's a great idea. If you have more than one bookcase full of books (doesn't everyone?), you should use this web-based software.

[*] As opposed to Moses

Here's the definition of "bigot".

See you on Monday.

[*] The Challies Interview: Derek Webb

First of all, how Challies gets to interview Derek Webb is completely beyond me. Who is "Challies", anyway? Could you pick him out if he was standing next to you at McD's ordering a #1 Large-sized with an extra cheeseburger? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Don't get me wrong: Challies is a top-cat in the blogosphere -- an achievement for which I am extremely jealous. He's in the top 120 blogs on TTLB, and he has 585 inbound links (even if TTLB says he has barely 25 visitors a day; not sure how that works out). But since when does a blogger of upper-intermediate influence get a chance to interview a character like Derek Webb up front and personal? Well, it turns out Mr. Webb is a fan of Tim's blog, so good on Tim.

Much more interesting is Tim's take on whether he should comment on what he made of the interview:
It seems that some people are expecting me to deconstruct the interview with Derek Webb. I am not going to do that. I am not going to write about what my conversation with him did to my opinion of his life, faith or ministry. There would be no value in that. However, I do have a few observations that I would like to make.
Tim: your observations are nice, but I'm sure you have more to say than that. Unless you want to become the David Suskind of the blogosphere, you have to do more than simply represent controversial issues and people.

More on this later. I'm in the bookstore today, and the Catholics are in today trying to buy rosaries and jewelry for the priest to bless. Please do not get me started.

[*] Classic "put up or shut up"

Just before I go home for the weekend, I wanted to say that you should watch this classic case of "put up or shut up" today if you have access to cable news/C-SPAN.

How many Democrats, do you think, are going to vote against this resolution?

Apparently 2 3.

Pray for all of our Senators and Representatives today as they all make complete monkeys ou of themselves. God willing they will find a way to stop making politics the first business of every waking day.

Be in the Lord's house with the Lord's people this Lord's day.

[?] So, who did you have lunch with yesterday?

Seriously: is that a topic for blogging? For example, one of the deacons at my church had lunch with me on Tuesday and we talked about some things, and it turns out that nobody (until right now) blogged about it or sent any e-mails around to find out the skinny.

Yet, Phil Johnson blogged last night/today about his lunch with me, and I'm getting requests to reciprocate because, it seems, Phil didn't spill enough beans to satisfy some folks.

Let me let you all in on a little secret: I think Phil has lunch with me because he actually likes me. It's not a mini blog summit; it's not a serious gathering of theological middle-weights called out to make some intermediate pronouncement of reformational evangelistic theology. We talked about our kids. We appreciated and enjoyed the company of our wives. And, for the lack of a better term, we "pal'd around".

Is that shocking? Does it change your world view? I'm not trying to be outlandish here when I say that it turns out that Phil's a middle-aged guy (like me) who has a somewhat-bold personality (like me) who has a somewhat-broad range of responsibility and the commensurate degree of "fence" he has to maintain in real life because of those responsibilities (like me) and it's nice to have someone around with whom you don't have to be guarded.

We talked about our experiences coaching our kids sports teams. We talked about Tulsa -- and I asked my wife to ask Phil about the Oral Roberts hospital thing he blogged about because he tells it so good. Phil tried to flip a lemon pit onto my lapel. My daughter wow'd the whole place with her exquisite table manners. And, against all blog protocol, we didn't even take any pictures.

He's just a pleasure to be with. And it helps that, to a certain extent, we are sort of fans of each other. I'm jealous of his roguish good-looks, and he's jealous of my tempered use of reason and snark to thump the underbelly of the blogosphere. I'm jealous that he's close to John MacArthur, and he's ... well, there's no like/as comparison there. Maybe he's jealous I get to live in Siloam Springs.

I like Phil. I'd call him my friend even if it meant some people would be put off by it. His wife is not just nice but good company, and she makes it easy for my wife to be friendly. And, while I find it interesting that some people think it's big news that I had lunch with them, there's no book deal brewing. I'm not interviewing Phil for the Blog. The balance of power isn't tilting.

It was lunch. He had a veggie platter, and I had grilled chicken salad.

I think I'm going to go call Johnny Depp and tell him how the blogosphere is treating me and tell him to stick up for me and Phil before our widdow feewings get hurt.

[?] Follow up: Carla Rolfe

I honestly don't know why you really added me to your blogroll to begin with, but I'm honored that you did. I also don't know why you put my blog link up there at top billing, but I have to say, my traffic has honestly doubled in the last few days, since you did that. So that was very cool of you to do that. Truth is, I don't really think your animated eyebrow is creepy, it just seemed funny at the time, so I went with it.

Anyhoo, thanks Frank. In a "men's world" (the God blogosphere) it's nice to be recognized by a few of you - even if it is just for the jokes.
-- Carla Rolfe
There's nothing like being proven right.

It is a difficult responsibility
That you accept from the Number 1 blogmaker, me
Have it known throughout the land from sea to sea
There'll be no more toy makers to the King!

I have no idea why I am spouting Rankin and Bass lyrics from the late 70's on the blog this afternoon. Maybe it's my own prayer language and I've finally received the holy spirit.

And this doesn't really have much to do with Carla anyway.


[%] Carla Rolfe's challenge

Carla is mad checking her counter too often, apparently, because I linked to her and nobody visited her site.

(1) My readers came here to read me. The links are like a side dish.
(2) I'm going to leave you linked here on the front page, top billing until Friday at 6 PM my time.

READERS: Son of a gun! Carla says you people didn't visit her, but Challies readers did. Is that a fair assessment of you? Are you really so stingy with your clicks -- good grief, it's ONE CLICK! -- that you can't stop by and show Carla that cent's readers are the ones which keep the blogosphere afloat?

From now 'til Friday. Make it so.

[#] Anne Rice Christ the Lord (3 of 3)

What gradually became clear to me was that many of the skeptical arguments -- arguments that insisted that the Gospels were suspect, for instance, or written too late to be eye witness accounts -- lacked coherence. Arguments about Jesus himself were full of conjecture. Some books were assumptions piled upon assumptions. Absurd conclusions were based upon little or no data.
That's an interesting quote, yes? I've got another one for you:
I was unconvinced by the wild postulations of those who had claimed to be children of the Enlightenment. And I had sensed something else. Many of these scholars, scholars who had apparently devoted their life to New Testament scholarship, disliked Jesus Christ. Some pitied him as a hopeless failure. Others sneered at him, and others felt an outright contempt. This came between the lines of the books. This emerged in the personality of the text.
These aren't the mad ravings of some blogger who's just now discovered internet apologetics and is voicing his disgust at what he finds in skeptical circles: this is Anne Rice in her Author's Note at the end of Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. They are part of the reason I saved this part of the review for last.

See: when I got wind that Anne Rice was going to write historical fiction about Jesus Christ, I was somewhat, well, disgusted. Frankly I find the Lestat novels creepy and amoral (which, of course, is their point), and I have intentionally distanced myself from reading any of Mrs. Rice's other works because of that work.

I am refraining from saying, "apparently, something has happened to Anne Rice," because she has gone from being a lapsed Catholic to being a relapsed Catholic. In all her years of researching this book, apparently the matter of the Reformation didn’t come up -- and really, why should it if all she is studying is the first century? But Mrs. Rice has discovered something in her reading that doesn’t normally dawn on people coming from her perspective.

She has discovered the problematic nature of 21st century religious skepticism -- independent of prior religious conviction. In that, even with the flaws I mentioned in the previous installment of this review, the novel clearly reflects her position that Jesus Christ was not just a misunderstood man.

She also says this:
Anybody could write about a liberal Jesus, a married Jesus, a gay Jesus, a Jesus who was a rebel. The "Quest for the Historical Jesus" had become a joke because of all the many definitions it had ascribed to Jesus.

The true challenge was to take the Jesus of the Gospels, the Gospels which were becoming ever more coherent to me, the Gospels which appealed to me as elegant first-person witness, dictated to scribes no doubt, but definitely early, the Gospels produced before Jerusalem fell -- to take the Jesus of the Gospels, and try to get inside him and imagine what he felt.
So let's be clear that she doesn't take the Scripture to be inspired (at least, not in this confession), she doesn't take the Gospels to be inerrant even if she finds them reliable, but she also doesn't think they are completely biased trash.

In contrast to the ham-handed DaVinci Code, this is as fair a treatment in fiction from the secular world as we probably can expect. Mrs. Rice's academic heroes are diverse -- from Blomberg and D.A.Carson to N.T. Wright to Frank Kermode to Karl Rahner -- and of course taking a detailed survey of her informal references would undoubtedly not turn up the reading list at Monergism.com. She is not openly hostile to the Gospel, and in many respects that's somewhat refreshing, but that is the real rub.

In the final tally, it is the best reason to read this book. Given that she has composed a psychological history of Christ here -- and we have to presume she intends to round it out with the rest of Christ's life -- which does not conform to conventional orthodoxy, I strongly urge the readers of this blog to take this book under consideration and mark it carefully for the near-misses it has with orthodoxy. It's going to come up. People are going to ask questions about it. Be prepared to give an account.

[*] "Catch them doing something good"

You must read this news item for your own good. Apparently it is humiliating to admit you're a slacker.

Let's unpack that, shall we? In spite of the fact that the homeless ought to have pride, it is apparently an act which could cause permanent emotional damage to make a child who is not actually homeless wear a sandwich board which says that she's doing lousy at school and is practicing for her future career as a homeless person.

See: I think that the theory that we have to catch them doing something good is placing the onus for discipline on the wrong end of the stick. At work, your boss is not going to nose around your work record trying to find something good to say about you in order to give you a raise. If you are a loser, you're going to get fired. And if you are waiting for your spouse to snuff up that one truffle in the behavioral pigsty of your life, you better not hold your breath.

Disciple is about turning away the small examples of human stupidity with clear object lessons in order to prevent real life from crushing the child like a useless empty box. Someone who grows up thinking that they can be on the mark 10% of the time and get rewarded for it is in from a rude awakening. Set the alarm clock now so they wake up early.

[*] Read the link

I have refrained from the little dust devil kicking up over this at Phil's blog, but this editorial (which Phil links to, so you may have read it already) indicates to me that the Charismatic movement has depths that have yet to be plunged.

Whether that's good or not ... that's something to think about ...

[#] 2005 Weblog Awards

You think I don't want a piece of this? YOU'RE CRAZY!

This blog qualifies (well ...) for the following categories:

Best Blog

Best New Blog (Established after November 19, 2004)

Best Humor/Comics Blog

Best Conservative Blog

Best Blog Design

Best Religious Blog

Vote early and vote often. It would be great to show up on the radar, even if we didn't win anything.

The massive problem with these awards is that you do have to sign up for an account to nominate. Go get 'em.