You must be doing something right…

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : December 20, 2007

If you upset the folks at They are apparently upset that we appreciate Catholicism.


I guess I’ve landed on someone’s “shit” list:

Willow Creek and the New Monasticism

Dark Ages Return Thanks to Emergent Heresy and Willow Creek

This stuff is incredible. And I don’t mean that it in a good way. I never imagined that I’d ever be lumped in with Willow Creek.  Willow Creek and Missio Dei don’t have much to do with each other. I spoke at a Willow Conference once, and it wasn’t even very well attended.  There is no conspiracy here, so move on.

Furthermore, I don’t long for the Dark Ages.  While I certainly value the monastic tradition, I don’t want to re-create it exactly as it was.  I am simply captivated by the idea of a prophetic communal embodiment of the way of Jesus in the midst of Christendom.   It even a new idea…we follow in the footsteps of not only the monastics, but the Anabaptists, the Confessing Lutherans (Bonhoeffer), the Catholic Worker Movement, Koinonia Farms, etc.  These were beautiful movements initiated by the Spirit of God.  Why not value them?

for further reading . . .

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17 Responses to “You must be doing something right…”

  1. Jason Barr on December 19th, 2007 5:35 pm

    That was some out-of-context snipping job they did with my series, eh? It’s like they latched on to the first occurrence of the word “Catholic” without any regard for context and the progression of thought through the series.

  2. Corey on December 19th, 2007 6:03 pm

    Careful…you don’t want K*n Silv* coming after you! It only results in much angry diatribe…

  3. Ken Silva on December 19th, 2007 7:23 pm

    I bring no anger boyz. Merry Christmas! :-)

  4. Mark Van Steenwyk on December 19th, 2007 8:57 pm

    Thanks Ken. It was a *little* immature for me to mention your post the way I did. I am hardly a Catholic, though I do enjoy much about Catholic thought. I think I have the same sort of concerns about Catholicism that many evangelicals (and Anabaptists) do…I just don’t think they are sufficient enough for me to break fellowship. I think the Radical Reformation was necessary and important…but I think movements like Bridgefolk and New Monasticism go a long way towards healing the rift.

    Peace of Christ to you, Ken.

    Mark Van Steenwyk

  5. Ken Silva on December 19th, 2007 9:53 pm

    10-Q Mark. Not a problem.

    And to you, Mark.

  6. jim on December 20th, 2007 12:47 pm


    I did read your posted series, and invite you to read the links I referenced in my post at CRN. You’ll see the context of my post, and why the Catholic reference in your #6 post was more a “snip” job.


  7. jim on December 20th, 2007 12:50 pm


    Last sentence should read….

    You’ll see the context of my post, and why the Catholic reference in your #6 post was more THAN a “snip” job.

  8. Mark Van Steenwyk on December 20th, 2007 2:01 pm

    Jim, what is the point of all of this? Someone at CRN just posted about Willow Creek and the New Monasticism (

    For the record, they aren’t really that invested in the new monasticism. They invited me mostly as an afterthought. And it isn’t as though I’m a big fan of Willow Creek. They invite all sorts of folks to their conferences.

  9. Jason Barr on December 20th, 2007 2:57 pm

    I did read the page. Couldn’t make a bit of sense out of it, nor could I figure out how exactly it was related to my series. This is my last comment on the matter.

  10. Matt on December 21st, 2007 8:26 am

    Is it helpful to engage people (even if they are brothers/sisters in Christ) who are coming at a given issue from such a radically different paradigm? I don’t even know if real communication is possible…maybe just letting pejorative references to JM go unnoticed is a better option. Anyone who is upset about incorporating *any* kind of Catholic thought into contemporary protestant faith will be hard to have helpful dialog with. I know it’s frustrating…but it doesn’t seem worth the emotional investment. Those are my cents.

  11. Mark Van Steenwyk on December 21st, 2007 8:35 am

    Grumble. ;)

    Of course, you are right, Matt. I guess I fell into this without really discerning things very well. It is hard to leave this stuff be, but I know that is the best course of action in this case.

  12. Mark Van Steenwyk on December 21st, 2007 8:47 am

    I’ve tried to leave comments explaining some things, but they haven’t posted them. They will allow critical posts, but avoid conversation. I’m getting bounces telling me that more and more people are latching on to this rediculous idea that Willow is becoming Catholic and that I represent some sort of return to the dark ages. They are even saying that Missio Dei believes that retreating from the world will help save the church…which shows a profound ignorance of, not only Missio Dei, but monasticism in general.

  13. Chris Rosebrough on December 21st, 2007 10:30 am


    I sent you an email yesterday asking for some clarification regarding your beliefs. I have not seen a response from you yet. I’ll post my questions here in the hope of sparking a conversation with you. Here are my questions.

    Exactly, what “gospel” are you trying to embody through monasticism?

    Do you believe that Jesus Christ was your penal substitute and that His death on the cross was an atoning sacrifice for your sins and that it propitiated God’s wrath against your sins?

    Do you believe that humans are saved by grace alone through faith alone?

    If not then what do you confess and believe the gospel is?

  14. Mark Van Steenwyk on December 21st, 2007 10:56 am

    Thanks Chris, I got the email (which somehow ended up in my spam folder). I started a reply this morning…but I’m glad you engaged me here.

    I’m more frustrated by the WAY you challenge me and new monasticism than I am with the content of your challenge. You publically denounce it without sending a personal email first. And then when I try to respond online, you don’t publish my comments. Only then do you personally email me.

    At any rate, I’d be more than happy to answer your questions. And I hope that we get some good dialog going. In fact, I’m moving this discussion to its own post.

    When I say “Gospel” I don’t simply mean “atonement.” That is where we first disagree, I guess. For me, it includes the birth, life, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. And it also includes Pentecost. Yes, the atonement is the climax of the Gospel.

    Jesus’ first proclamation of the Gospel is in Luke 4:

    “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
    to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

    The rest of Luke/Acts is the outpouring of this proclamation (which I call the Jesus Manifesto).

    So, by embodying the Gospel, my community (Missio Dei) is trying to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. We want to live the way Jesus lived. We want to take up our cross and lay down our lives for others. We want to turn the other cheek. We want to care for the poor and the “least of these.” We want to call people to repentance and new life. We want to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit. And we eagerly await our future resurrection.

    I don’t have big problems with people that hold to the penal substitutionary view of the Atonement. I, however, don’t hold to it. The substitutionary atonement didn’t really emerge until Anselm…and the “penal” substitutionary atonement happened later still. It didn’t gain ascendancy until the Magisterial Reformers took it and ran with it.

    There are many facets to the atonement. And while I believe that there is a substitution in the atonement (Jesus took the wages of my sins), there is more than that happening on the cross.

    The fundamental change on the cross wasn’t with God and his attitude towards me. It wasn’t as though God wanted me in hell and then Jesus took my punishment. The real change happened with humanity. Jesus took on human nature and provided a way for us to be set free from sin and death. The “punishment” Jesus took was the full scope of humanity. God gave Jesus over to receive the worst of humanity. That is what “wrath of God” means in Romans 1.

    I do believe that human beings are saved by grace alone through faith alone. It is not our efforts that save us. Paul is pretty clear about that.

    So, am I a Christian, or a heretic?

  15. Chris Rosebrough on December 21st, 2007 11:42 am


    I apologize, but am still not certain whether you are a Christian brother or heretic yet.

    Words have meanings and even though you use some of the same words I do, I am not certain we’re working from the same definitions.

    Like you I seek follow Christ. I believe that I have been bought by the blood of Christ and the life I live is not my own. My reasonable act of worship is to serve Christ by serving others and to show the love of Christ to my neighbors and my community.

    Regardless of the reasons you gave (which maybe sometime we could discuss as a separate conversation), you said that you do NOT not believe in the Penal Substitionary Atonement.

    Should I infer from your statement that you do NOT believe that Jesus was punished in your place for the sins that you committed?

    Should I infer from your statement that you do NOT believe that Jesus’ sacrifice was the ultimate fulfillment of the sacrificial system established by the LORD at Sinai?

    Should I infer from your statement that you do NOT believe that Jesus Christ’s perfect fulfillment of the Mosiac Law (His Perfect righteousness) is NOT imputed to you through faith in Christ. Penal Substitution not only address Atonement for sins it also perfectly fulfills the Old Testament demands for perfect Righteousness. On the Cross Jesus takes the punishment and wrath of God that I deserved and earned through my sinfulness, the other half of that equation is that as my substitute Jesus’ perfect righteousness is given to me as a gift. All of my sins are atoned for by Christ and God no longer sees me as a sinner because I am clothed with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. The very heart of the sacrificial system worked from the idea of “One life for another” (substitute). That is why God would only accept spotless sacrificial victims, those, ‘without spot or wrinkle’.

    So here are my follow up questions for you.

    1. Is it true that you do NOT believe that Jesus was punished in your place for the sins that you committed?

    2. Is it true that you do NOT believe that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the ultimate fulfillment of the sacrificial system established by the Lord at Sinai?

    3. Is it true that you do NOT believe that Christ’s perfect righteousness, His perfect fulfilling of the Mosiac Law is imputed to you by faith?

    I think once I get your answers to these questions I will know whether you are friend or foe.

  16. Corey on December 21st, 2007 12:19 pm

    Can Mark still be your friend even if he doesn’t answer appropriately? I know he’d like to be…

  17. Chris Rosebrough on December 21st, 2007 12:25 pm


    MOST of my friends are people with whom I have significant differences regarding Christianity and religion. I am more challenged by people with whom I disagree with than those who believe the same things I do.

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