Thursday, February 10, 2005

VIEW FROM THE PEW Breaking News: A blogsphere for the elite?

Over at Eternal Perspectives, Mike Russell makes a case for self policing the Christian blogsphere in “The Vast Godblog Wasteland”. You’re probably not a card carrying protestant if you don’t agree with Mike about the lack of biblical understanding in the blogsphere, since we all claim we have a better understanding of Scripture than anyone else.

For the most part, those men and women who have dedicated their life to the study of Scripture do have a better understanding of hermeneutics and biblical principles than those of us who have to get up and go to work everyday and only study the bible as a hobby. However, maybe those of us who get up and go to work everyday have a better understanding of the application of Scripture than those who only study under other scholars.

Mike may not have intended to sound like an elitist, but he does. Could a Christian Leader sound any more elitist than this?

“Lest you think I'm playing favorites, I don't agree doctrinally on many issues with any of these bloggers. But I do respect them: they have either paid their dues and sharpened their skills through seminary, intense personal study, or both. (Actually, seminary without intense personal study isn't worth much; indeed, it can be worse than no seminary at all.)”

And this:

“Or maybe we need another "exclusive" blogroll, one populated only by those who adhere to some yet-to-be-determined evangelical litmus test. A kind of doctrinal Shibboleth not unlike those required of professors by Christian colleges and seminaries. Nothing that would exclude solely on the basis of denominations, but one that would include only those in agreement with some foundational beliefs shared by most denominations.”

What about those who have paid their dues by actually living a life of submission; shouldn’t they also have a voice in illustrating biblical application?

Mike then goes on to say:

“But for every one blogger who is genuinely endeavoring to rightly divide the word of truth, there seems to be ten who are either careless in their study, with their words, or both. Fortunately, most of the above enjoy a wide audience; sadly, so do some of the less-than diligent bloggers.”

I haven’t been in a church in 15 years where the pastor didn’t claim that all Christians have a responsibility to spread the Gospel. I wonder if Mike could clarify because now I am confused; Is it our responsibility to spread the Gospel, or is the Gospel to complicated for us common folk?

Mike finishes his post with more elitism by declaring that he doesn’t want to have anything to do the common folk:

“Personally, I'd just like to have a good place to go to read good scholarship. No politics or other hobby horses allowed. Sort of like a theological reading room. A place for an irenic exchange of ideas. A place of mutual respect and grace. A place where it's OK to be wrong, but a willingness to re-think a position or statement is present. A safe place.

And, most of all, a place of love. No name calling, cheap shots, or hit-and-run comments. A marketplace of theological ideas.

Maybe - just maybe - I'm looking for a L'Abri blog. A shelter for serious people wanting to talk about serious things. I wish I knew how to make it happen.”

Of course the blogsphere is certainly big enough for Mike to have exactly what he wants without ever being bothered by the rest of us. However, the blogspere is also big enough for everyone else who believes ideas, and concepts, and beliefs, should be challenged and can be defended.


1 comment:

Mike said...

David:

Yours is the first negative feedback I've gotten, but it is instructive: the positive feedback has been from others who (a) have read my blog frequently, (b) have interacted with me via emails or comments I left on their posts, or (c) both.

After reading your somewhat-scathing review of my post, I realized that I had written with a particular audience in mind: those who "know" me. I completely failed to read my post through the eyes of those who don't know me. That was a serious oversight on my part.

I obviously should have emphasized some points that (in retrospect) were made only in passing. For example, I wrote regarding the people on my "A" list that "they have either paid their dues and sharpened their skills through seminary, intense personal study, or both." Paying dues and intense personal study are sufficient - and sometimes superior - substitutes for seminary. Most on my "approved list" have never been to seminary. But they do have good bible study skills and it is evident in their writing, which reflects some scholarship and serious thought.

I've been to seminary - twice - and taught as a graduate assistant at Denver Seminary. Trust me: just because someone's been to seminary does not mean they have something to say or that they are diligent about "rightly dividing the word of truth." A lot of my own theological study was done before I went to Denver at the age of 33 - oh, so many (20+) years ago.

I regret that I was not more careful in how I said what I said. All but a handful of my friends have never been to seminary or Bible college, but I have learned immensely from them - from their insights into Scripture, but even more through the Christ-like lives they live.

I think your charge of me being an "elitist" is mistaken; I also think your editing of my post accomplished how you wanted to make me appear, not necessarily what I was saying. Clarifying remarks or obvious satire were left out, thus giving quite a different tone to my remarks. Again, I take some responsibility for the mis-reading: if you're not familiar with me, then you're going to miss my attempts at dry humor aimed at my own issues. I am sorry that I did not take that into account.

But I am not at all apologetic for trying to raise the bar: many of the embarrassing talking heads for Christendom make ludicrous statements because they have not done their homework. Issues are proof-texted and all Christians wind up getting painted with a wide, dirty brush. I'll not apologize for wanting to curtail that.

What you call "elitism," I call scholarship or expertise. Who preaches in your church? Someone trained in bible study methods, or someone who thinks they have found something "new and exciting" based on their own imaginations? The Old Testament and New are pretty clear about being careful what you listen to, testing any messenger who claims to speak for God, and searching the Scriptures to see if these things be so.

If calling for the Blogdom of God to do likewise - and to have a way to identify the more careful scholars out there - if that sort of call is wrong in the eyes of some, then I'm happy to be wrong. I think I have some biblical support for being "wrong" in the eyes and personal opinions of others.

Around the world, it has been said, America is known for exporting two things: Coca-Cola and Cults. Think about it: where have most Christian cults originated? The blogosphere only makes the exportation of distortion of our faith that much easier.

Is freedom of speech really a higher value than accurately presenting the nature of God? I, for one, don't think so. Given the harsh consequences in the Bible for misrepresenting God, it would seem that He is not so big on irresponsible speech, either.

In closing, my purpose in my post was this: to protect young and undiscerning Christians from bad theology and misunderstanding about who God is. If I'm an elitist in your eyes (or anybody else's), then so be it: "Here I write. I can do no other. God help me" (with apologies to Martin Luther).

BTW, I'm going to post this on my blog since - as I said - I may have offended some people unintentionally. If you want to trackback to your review, feel free.