Hard questions for Christian bloggers

Hard questions for Christian bloggers

Updated 01/09/2006: See my reference to Dan Edelen’s recent post, below.

Last Tuesday, I was asleep at the wheel when Eric Reed over at Out of Ur invited Dr. Craig L. Blomberg to post a thoughtful article on blogging and the Evangelical blogosphere. I finally saw the post today, and thought it worth sharing.

It’s easy to read Blomberg’s post as entirely critical. It’s not. But he does ask some hard questions worthy of consideration. His post, indeed, may be a sort of litmus test for motives: if you see it as overly critical, perhaps you’re the inspiration for his questions? I quote, below, a few excerpts, but the whole post is worth reading. My response, posted to the site, follows.

If Marshall McLuhan was even partly right that “the medium is the message,” then what message does the medium of blogging send? …

And what of the choice to solicit responses to a blog posting on a particularly controversial subject? With unprecedented ease of access comes the temptation to “shoot from the hip” and respond with little thought or care for how one comes across. Are “Christian” blogs noticeably better in this respect? Or does the lack of a filter for all but the worst of responses almost inherently set up the readership for having to deal with extremists (in either tone or content) on both sides of a divisive issue? Of course, one can learn a lot from seeing how the far ends of a spectrum react. But is the church of Jesus Christ edified and built up? Are non-Christians who choose to peruse the conversation likely to be attracted to the faith? Will mediators and peacemakers win out over the rabble rousers? I’m not yet convinced that the answers to any of these questions are affirmative. …

Besides, what messages are we sending when we allow bloggers or those who respond to them to post almost any linguistic utterance at will for all the world to read? To the undiscriminating, surely the answer is that even the most meaningless, intimate, hateful, crude or careless thought deserves an outlet enabling others to talk back. From a non-theological perspective, this is the ultimate demeaning of human language. From a Christian perspective, it may be an offense to the Word who alone gives human communication grace. But then, you might not be reading these words if it weren’t for a blog site. So am I overreacting?

—From: Leadership Blog: Out of Ur: The Blessing of Blogs: Is the New Media Good for the Church?

And my posted reply:

Perhaps I don’t take a contentious enough stab at things in my blog posts, perhaps I don’t have a wide enough readership to attract contentious commenters, perhaps my audience is unusually peace-loving, or perhaps each blogger has a totally unique experience in this regard. But the comments on my blog post are almost all positive contributions to dialog.

And it’s the dialog I enjoy the most. I invite and respond to criticism because I recognize that my handle on Pentecostalism, Evangelicalism, Christianity, and morality is not the only valid point of view. I may, in fact, be wrong. I welcome the dialog.

I view my blog as a place where I am learning what I think, and I get the blessing and benefit of others helping me along the way. In my intellectual journey, I have explored topics and ideas I would not have plumbed without a willing reading audience. My blog is, in this sense, a spiritual discipline.

I also view my weblog as an instrument of change. My writing is already changing me. Further, I hope that my views will change those who read. Maybe they’ll agree, maybe they’ll disagree. But maybe, just maybe, they’ll view things slightly differently now than before.

I see Paul the Apostle as a sort of epistolary proto-blogger. When circumstances warranted a post, he addressed issues head-on in public forum writing with letters that would be read aloud to his audience. We don’t have the replies (comments) to enjoy–we can only infer them–but there is no doubt that his audience responded to his posts with disagreement and calls for clarification.

I’m no St. Paul, none of us are. But there is much to commend open dialog and response.

Finally, Out of Ur is not typical of most new blogs. You have the visibility and built-in audience out of the gate that most bloggers do not enjoy. More, your audience is already more variegated than the typical slice of the blogosphere represented at most religious blogs. Birds of a feather blog together, but Leadership and Out of Ur reach a wider spectrum of opinions and ecclesiology than my BlogRodent blog or almost any other Evangelical blog I know of.

And the results are fascinating.

Keep up the good work, Eric.

Rich Tatum

(For some reason, I thought Eric Reed, Leadership journal editor, had written the post. :: sigh :: I didn’t realize my error until moments after I hit “submit.” My overall content would’ve been the same regardless.)

Blomberg admits, up front, that the entirety of his experience with blogs is as an observer, and his participation till now seems to have been limited to interacting in the comments section of the Out of Ur weblog. So, his critique is that of an outsider, not a committed participant. I suspect that colors his view—his exposure would tend toward a narrow, unrandom sample of the blogosphere. Of course, running a weblog exposes you to a narrow, unrandom sample as well, but it’s a different kind of slice giving a more authentic view.

In other words: Blomberg’s view is a tourist’s view. The residents will likely disagree.

Updated 01/09/2006: Dan Edelen blogging at Cerulean Sanctum, has had it. Having only tangentially entered the cessationist vs. charismatic/pentecostal debate that raged over the last half a year or so, he’s finally fed up and has declared the whole mess a stinking black hole of nothingness: “The Godblogosphere’s Black Hole.”

Perhaps I overlooked this debate and its combatants in my thoughts above. I only barely entered the fray with a spare mention in “Charismatic Heresy” that got picked up in the Theological Pillowfight compendium maintained by Rob Wilkerson at Miscellanies on the Gospel. But I have consciously avoided getting into the debate precisely for these reasons: it was too divisive. Maybe, someday, I’ll post my rationale for believing what and why I believe on cessationism versus continuationism, but it’ll be for my own purposes, for my own benefit, and for yours (if you care!). If dialog ensues, I’ll be delighted. But if it descends into straw-man and ad-hominem arguments, I’ll shut the comments down.

I believe in civility. And where participants in a forum cannot censor their immature egregiousness, I believe in imposed censorship. I believe in debate and dialog, but I don’t believe in anarchy. I believe in growing in knowledge through the give-and-take of opposing viewpoints, but I don’t believe in disharmony of spirit.

If there is any lesson that could be learned from Acts 2 by the continuationist and cessationist debate participants it’s that God works through his church in unity. Nobody could say with a straight face that the early church was in one accord philosophically or doctrinally on every point. But to ignore the critical need for spiritual, emotional, and volitional unity is to deny ourselves the empowerment we need to act as change agents in these last days. And whether or not you take the charismatic/pentecostal view on things, on that, at least, I hope we agree.

Wherever two or more are gathered together, there will be at least three opinions present. The trick is to cooperate in mission and purpose (love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul, love your neighbor as yourself, evangelize, baptize, and make disciples) without getting stuck in the mud of disagreement over specifics.

Black holes suck.

[tags]blog-culture, blogging, blogosphere, BlogRodent, cessationism, charismatics, continuationism, Craig-Blomberg, Craig-L.-Blomberg, criticism, culture, Dan-Edelen, debate, Evangelical-blogs, Internet-culture, Out-of-Ur, weblogs[/tags]

7 thoughts on “Hard questions for Christian bloggers

  1. DLE


    Black holes do suck.

    Thank you for your link to Cerulean Sanctum and my post.

    I look at the potential for advancing the Kingdom through blogs and see a lot there. Unfortunately, I think we’re giving the medium short shrift by always descending to the lowest common denominator of “my wisdom trumps yours.”

    I’ve got to believe we can do better.

  2. Rich Post author

    Wow, Dan, I’m surprised you found my post since my trackback to your site didn’t seem to work. Heh.

    I like to think I have solid reasons to believe all that I do, and that my rational is grounded scripturally. But it is the height of arrogance for me to believe that I could not be wrong. On some points I make a leap of faith and decide to embrace one point of view when others seem equally well-founded. On others I may well be irrational.

    We’ll know in the end.

    Assuming I’m right on the essentials, of course. (grin)


  3. Jim

    I’ve been tossing this one around in my mind, Rich. It seems to me, no matter the medium, the Gospel comes forth through the vessel, the individual who takes the medium and then expresses himself. If Christ be in me, then why whould it matter whether the message comes forth from the pulpit, the radio, TV, or a blog? If Christ be in me, then hopefully it be Christ Who comes forth. Can a blog give a bad image of what it means to be immersed in Him? No doubt; but, then, that holds true of any other avenue as well.

    I never intended, in the beginning, my site to be a Sunday School lesson. My everyday existence, however, is rooted in a conversion that brought to me over 33 years ago the reality of His presence. What I write is as much about “meditation” as it is anything else. It isn’t prayer; but it’s close. I stumble as much in it as I do anything else. He meets me and we work at it.

    I enjoy your site because I find in it that sort of spirit mixed with His. I’ve considered, from time to time, drifting out of authorship, but remain very thankful for the meal that you and others provide me.

    Peace, my friend…

  4. Rich Post author

    Thanks, Jim, for your comments, and the compliment, too.

    Your comment about writing being meditation resonates with me. I think with my fingers. I form thoughts by expressing them. I like to think, perhaps, that there is a sort of prayer going on where the Holy Spirit is “helping” me pray through my writing. I’m not saying that what I write is divinely inspired, but in the same manner that I often don’t know what to pray for until I start praying, I often don’t know what’s important to think about until I start thinking. And my best thinking is done while writing.

    It’s not an “empty” meditation, such as with Zen contemplation. It’s a “fulfilled” or “completed” meditation that fills the mind with thoughts.

    Like you, I didn’t set out to make a specifically “religious” website or weblog, but I find it impossible to separate myself and my identity from what I write. It turns out that my faith is important enough to me that I cannot help but expand on it in anything I write.

    I like what Marc “Spud” Velasquez has on his weblog, ePrays: “Have you prayed before posting?”

    Good question.


  5. Pingback: DrellÂ’s Descants

  6. Pingback: The Confessing Reader

  7. Pingback: not too much

Leave a Reply

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.
%d bloggers like this: