The Homeless Internet Monk

For some unknown reason, I’ve become fascinated with “post-evangelicals,” seeing as how I suppose I fit the bill. One of the leading bloggers of the “movement” is Michael Spencer, aka the Internet Monk. He writes beautifully, and his honesty about his seeking Christ is very refreshing.

Today, I ran across his latest post, entitled “How God Ruined Church for Me.” What a horribly depressing title, but one that makes a whole lot of sense when you read further:

There are many SBC churches in which I could happily be at home, and there are others I could not support or worship with in a clear conscience.

I could write the same paragraph for any portion of the body of Christ that has influenced me. I love liturgy, but not liberalism. I love Merton, but not transubstantiation and papal infallibility. I love Anglicanism, but not apostasy. I want a Catholic church with Anglican theology, Presbyterian government and the Baptist view of the sacraments.

The work of bringing unity in the body of Christ isn’t a work of structure and institution. I doubt if God cares how many different ways we gather, worship, work or do mission. The work of unity is a work of the Holy Spirit in my heart, bringing me to love other Christians and to see Christ in them and for me.

I totally understand these sentiments. I love Anglican liturgy, Presbyterian hymnody, Baptist fellowship, and Catholic government. But, there are some key differences between me and Mr. Spencer:

  • I am firmly, unmovably convinced that the work of bringing unity in the body of Christ must be through structure and institution. It’s been that way since day one, and if we are to preserve or restore any kind of doctrinal unity, it must remain so.
  • I have come to realize that Christianity is not about my likes and dislikes, or even about what I theologically understand and what I don’t. It’s about communion. And communion requires like belief. The apostolic Churches have taught some form of transsubstantation, refined over the years, since the earliest days of Christianity. Episcopal governance is also deeply rooted. They go together and make it impossible for me to stand with anyone other than Catholics or Orthodox. (And since I am also a Western intellectual, the choice between those two was simple.)
  • The “great tradition” that Mr. Spencer so values is there for the taking, but it requires submission to authority, not creating a new one. Christianity is not a cafeteria where we pick doctrines that we like best, to make a hodgepodge to suit ourselves. The end result of such trips through the buffet line is inevitably heresy

It is heartbreaking for me to see the division that remains in the Body of Christ. But, I just don’t see it healing large-scale unless people realize that unity is impossible without submission.

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6 Responses to “The Homeless Internet Monk”


  1. 1 Bekah January 2, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    I’m glad you’ve replied to iMonk’s essay, because my thoughts are a jumble and though I’d like to blog on it, I’m lacking the crystalization of a direction to do so.

    I want a Catholic church with Anglican theology, Presbyterian government and the Baptist view of the sacraments.

    Hearkening back to our discussion with Brant, I’m am fully attracted to his experience of home-churching. I want that kind of community. I really feel a longing in my heart for a day-in day-out Church, not just a gathering of believers on Sunday. But, I also believe this sort of communion is not fully possible without full unity. I’m naive enough to believe I can have both, though it may take time to establish.

    There is another family, converts the year after us, equally dismayed (possibly moreso) as we by the antics of our priest, who we are exploring the possibility of more frequent meetings. I am hopeful that we can build something, not outside the Church, or instead of the Church, but fully integrated with our Catholic spirituality and in submission to the authority of the Church and magesterium. We’d even appreciate the approval of our priest, but at the moment are reluctant to pursue it. We’ll see how and where it leads. My vision is for a bi-weekly gathering to fellowship, share meal, and discuss Scripture/writings of the Church.

    One of the grand discoveries I made of Catholicism is that there is room for all. There are many different expressions, but the boundaries are clear. We are all called to submit to the same teachings. There is also something refining about being forced to let go of our own desires and visions to truly seek and find Him. It is one more step towards dying to self.

  2. 2 Argent January 2, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    Having experienced the gamut–from house churches to High Church Anglicanism–I can tell you that I am grateful to have found the safe harbor of the Catholic Church. When I look at my spiritual pedigree, so to speak, it’s pretty much a patchwork quilt of this and that. But my own growth has taken a mammoth step since entering the Church. It’s hard to articulate…but I think it has to do with trusting in Apostolic Tradition and the Magisterium. I’m not tossed about in the sea with this and that doctrine being voted upon.

    With regards to community, I can sympathize with Bekah’s desire for intimacy that is found in small groups. There’s nothing like sharing trials and tribulations, spiritual discoveries, with a smaller group of people with whom I’ve built a certain level of trust…and doubly blessed when it’s in the context of a common shared belief. It’s something that converts long for after conversion. “Where are the ‘cell groups’?” they ask wistfully and longingly. Perhaps, Bekah, Lent would be a good time to launch such a group in your parish? Because of the penitential and introspective nature of the season, maybe your priest would be more open to supporting it in this context. Have soup and bread together and then have a discussion period ending with prayer. (I was a Christian Ed director in a past life, so I’ve learned how to approach priests, even goofy ones, for things)

  3. 3 Edmund C. January 2, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    I’ve also run the gamut from three different varieties of Presby to Baptist to non-denominational (never did house churches or Anglican, though), always looking for something that I wasn’t quite finding, till I jumped the Tiber.

    Argent, great idea about small groups–we have them every Lent in our parish, and I can’t wait for them to start back up next month.

    I wish we had them all year, though.

  4. 4 Bekah January 2, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    Because of the penitential and introspective nature of the season, maybe your priest would be more open to supporting it in this context. Have soup and bread together and then have a discussion period ending with prayer. (I was a Christian Ed director in a past life, so I’ve learned how to approach priests, even goofy ones, for things)

    Yes, that might work well. If you have any other words of wisdom, I invite you to share them: http://roadwelltraveled.wordpress.com/2006/12/29/combatting-dissension/

  5. 5 Stacia January 9, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Hi. I just came across your blog via my friend (and former youth pastor) Brant Hansen’s blog. I’ve personally been reading and learning a lot about the Orthodox Church lately, and, as a result, I’ve been re-examining some of my evangelical assumptions about the Church — structure and authority issues, as well as the role of liturgy and sacraments. While I’m sympathetic with many of Brant’s grievances toward evangelical churches, I also, like you, see the issue of doctrinal unity as one of central importance. I’ve appreciated reading your contributions to the discussion over at Brant’s blog along that vein.

    I’m curious about the comment you made in this post regarding your decision between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. You said that as “a Western intellectual, the choice between those two was simple.” I get the impression from this that you were attracted to the Catholic Church because you found it to be more “Western” and “intellectual,” like yourself. But you stated in the same paragraph that “Christianity is not about likes or dislikes,” a sentiment that I strongly agree with. So, surely there was more to your decision than just a preference for things “Western” and “intellectual,” right? Can you explain?

  6. 6 Edmund C. January 9, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Stacia, great questions. I’ll try to get to them ASAP…


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