It might sounds strange to hear someone speak of “the man behind monergism,” since the word monergism–in theological parlance–is used to denote the singular working of God in Christ for the justification of sinners. One might think the reference is to Jesus Christ, who is Himself the God-Man; but I’m actually referring to John Hendryx, the man behind Monergism.com.
The first time I stumbled across Monergism was also the first time I heard the word used–the meaning of which itself encourages careful theological study! Sometime late in the fall of 2001 I stumbled across this wonderful site. I was a newly converted Christian, eager to read everything I could so that I might better understand the theology of Scripture. I remember reading several articles on Covenant Theology, the role of Israel in the redemptive-history and Christology–all of which had a huge influence on my theological development.
Back in 2001 there were not many Reformed theological resource sites on line. John created the site on July 21, 2001, just a few months prior to my own conversion. Since then hundreds of thousands of sites have emerged. Many have come and gone. Some have fizzled out because of a lack of financial support or ongoing interest. Still others have gone into retirement for a variety of personal reasons. 11 years after first stumbling across Monergism the site is still up and better than ever. One of the unique things about Monergism is that, unlike many of the sites that are a collaborative web network or coalition, it is the product of the labors of just one individual.
Today John continues to keep Monergism full of rich theological articles and posts. In addition, has has recently revamped the audio library–making Monerism MP3 one of the best sermon audio resources to visit online. Many of our readers will also know that John runs Monergism Books–an online Reformed theological bookstore.
We thought our readers would be interested in getting to know more about the man behind Monergism (a phrase that sounds ‘Oz-esque’) and the development of this wonderful resource for the church. John agreed to give us an interview. So meet John Hendryx, the man behind Monergism:
John, I’m sure our readers would like to know something about the man behind Monergism. Would you mind sharing a brief testimony and tell us how you came to embrace and love Reformed Theology?
Thank you Pastor Batzig. I am honored that you would take the time out of your busy schedule.
Since I have basically been in a cave without much outside contact for the past 10 months, I have not had much opportunity to interact with people as I usually would. Those months were spent hunkered down developing our most recent project: a best-of–the-web MP3 by Scripture Library. So it is a pleasure to speak with you. But you asked that my testimony be brief, so let’s get right to it.
You first asked about the man behind Monergism … Well, “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” Much more interesting is the Person he and his website are pointing to. I really want to talk about the LORD, about what He has done, and what He is now doing. My conversion and my life in Christ is a demonstration of the sheer grace of God … how the LORD can take a hopelessly lost and darkened sinner and, without an ounce that sinners’ help, translate him from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of light and life.
Interesting you should ask about my testimony and my embrace of Reformed Theology in the same breath, because they are actually one and the same. I was a 19-year old sophomore at the University of Colorado, Boulder deeply entrenched in New Age Occultism, which was essentially to a mixture of Hinduism, Tantric Buddhism, Occult practices, pseudo-Christianity and solipsism or the worship of the Self. It was partly drug induced and partly arrived at through deep periods of meditation and lots of metaphysical literature … Then one day while reading the Bible I came across Deuteronomy 18 which reads:
“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, 14 for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.”
This passage struck me right between the eyes. It instantly put the fear of the Lord in me because it revealed to me the inconsistency in my understanding of God. The weight of the text immediately drove me to my knees to pray to the Lord. I remember my prayer: “Lord, if everything I believe is wrong I want to know. Please just show me what is truth is. Nothing else matters” Well, it was the Lord who put that prayer into my heart and the Lord who answered that prayer. It led to a series of events (which for brevity sake I will spare you) that led me to read another verse …a verse that the Lord actually used to save me: Romans 9:15-16:
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.
It was with these words that the Lord opened my eyes to the Gospel. The scales fell from my eyes and I recognized for the first time that He is God, and I am not. I despaired of all hope in myself and was given a new vision accompanied by a renewed will to take hold of the grace of God in Christ. The previous false understanding I had of Jesus and his mission were, at once, swept away by the Hand of the Lord and I now, by the grace of God, understood that there was no hope in me or anything else, save in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. … He implanted in me a new heart, a new understanding and a new life which I could not have possibly come up with on my own. So from this reading of the Scripture together with this life-changing experience, you can see why your two questions are actually one. The Lord was gracious by revealing to me, at the moment of my conversion, that Jesus deserved the glory for all of it. It was simple and profound and even though I did not know what Reformed Theology was, (and would not read about it till much later), I was born in Christ knowing, from His own words, that salvation is of the Lord ….all a work of God. It was the most radical paradigm shift possible. My understanding went from “I am God” to “I am not God” … from “I can save myself” to “only Jesus can save me”.
When did you come up with the idea for Monergism? What year did the site launch, and how long did it take to get the site launched?
I lived in China for a ten-year period during the 1990s and my last few years there were spent in an Internet start-up with some Chinese locals which later became a major website, similar to Yahoo!, but the content was in Chinese. During this time, I had spent a lot of time and effort learning HTML and about how to develop websites, so upon return to the U.S. in the year 2000, when the Lord made me aware of a major absence of consistently sound and biblical websites available on the web, a light bulb went on. As a student of theology and HTML it seemed like a very fitting pair and a worthwhile direction to go. Then my wife and I discussed it and she really encouraged me to start putting a site together. I don’t know if you remember, but Monergism.com was originally just a simple HTML website that I personally designed, which only developed over time into the major database with 10s of thousands of resources that it is today. From the beginning the philosophy behind Monergism.com was to add just a little bit of content each day. Over the course of years this added up to the largest site of its kind.
Monergism.com was one of the first websites I frequently visited as a young believer. I used to spend hours and hours reading articles on Reformed and Covenantal Theology that you had posted there. In part, the resources you made available were instrumental in my spiritual and theological development in the early days after I was converted. Did you have a particular rationale for who you posted and what you wanted to put online back then?
That’s encouraging.. So you must have been one of those early users of the site and witnessed its small beginnings. At that time I just wanted to create a one-stop hub for all things Biblical – a theology website which, by God’s grace, one could trust would not lead you to any material which dishonors the Lord.. There was already lots of theologically questionable material online posing as orthodox Christianity, so God pushed me, as it were, to create a website which was more consistent, Christ-centered, with particular emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in the work of regeneration, a subject which has always been a subject close to my heart. Although the website covers just about every topic, I have always felt a tugging in my heart, a belief that the Lord wanted me, in particular, to emphasize the salvific aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work.
At some point you started Monergism Books. Was this something you had wanted to do, or was it part of a ministry shift to keep Monergism on the map as a significant resource ministry?
Monergism Books was begun out of our garage in 2004. At the time my wife and I realized that we were the type of people who really only thrive when creating our own business, so the original intent was to create a revenue stream which would be helpful in developing and maintaining Monergism.com. But as it turns out the book business has undergone a major shift and really only ended up supporting itself and its staff in a subsistence kind of way. Monergism.com then became a separate non-profit which, thank the Lord, has continued to be fully funded by visitors.
Recently you have launched a new project with regard to Monergism MP3. Would you mind telling us a little about what you have been doing with that site?
Thanks for asking. I reckon this is the third largest project I have ever undertaken in my life, just after learning Mandarin and the creation and development of Monergism.com itself. This is something I know you and your readers can get excited about. As I mentioned earlier, I had not seen the sunlight for 10 months and came out of my cave pasty, white and overall lacking in health. But it was well worth it. The Lord graciously gave us the time and resources necessary to make available the largest online Reformed hub for MP3s, by Scripture, by Speaker, by Topic and by Series. We spent those sedentary months collecting and aggregating the best MP3 sermon and lecture content for every chapter of the Bible. This was so visitors could easily access instant downloads for the best multimedia content on the web without the need for any charge or registration. Currently, I am working with a developer on making the website into HTML 5.0 which is the newest technology that allows smart-phones to access the site just like a browser, without the need for any additional apps. This will be incredibly useful to visitors who want to download MP3s with their smart phones. If there is anything you take away from this interview, I hope it is the MP3 Library so I would encourage your readers to take a closer look at what we have to offer in the way of MP3s (accessible on the Monergism homepage though the “tabs” near the top right of the site). We have worked hard to make it extremely easy to navigate so make it a priority to visit and make good use of the resources there.
You and I love so many of the same theologians and preachers. I was excited to see you organize and post so many William Still sermons. Whenever I hear Sinclair Ferguson say that no one influenced him as much as William Still, I want to read and listen to everything that I can by him. You’ve done us a great service with these sermons. Also, I see that you’ve been posting many of the sermons that Sinclair Ferguson preached during his days in Scotland and a host of Eric Alexander sermons that have not been available for quite a long time. Are there any other resources that you’ve recently been highlighting that you would like our readers to specifically know about.
Of all the resources we have developed recently I would most recommend you familiarize yourself with the MP3s by Scripture section. I think you will find it a must see one stop resource for finding Sermons from gifted and theologically sound orators from any chapter of Scripture in the Bible. Still, Ferguson and Alexander have some of the finest expositional preaching you will find anywhere.
What would you like to see for Monergism in the future? What ways can those who have appreciated the site, and your ministry there, help accomplish those goals?
The work on Monergism.com and the development of new content seems like it is never ending. I never have enough help, but I think once we break the technology barrier and get a more sophisticated web platform up and running, it will save me lots of time, which will enable me to put more effort into projects I have always wanted to do. There is so much to improve upon so our users will have the best possible experience when using the site. Currently I am spending time building up the content for specific areas of the site like the Attributes of God.
I would ask, above all else, for fervent prayers to the LORD on our behalf… that He would remove all the obstructions, that He would make provision to make further expansion of the site possible, that He would greatly enhance the site so believers and unbelievers alike would be greatly blessed by it. … That Jesus would continue to be honored by giving us wisdom to make only content available which He would bless and multiply to its readers and listeners.