Mixed Media

October 1, 2007

I can’t remember where, but I recently read somebody expressing disdain for “blogging” as a search for truth and exploration of theology. Or more specifically, the populist nature of the “anyone can have a blog and write/think about theology for themselves” climate of the internet of today. I’ve got two things to say in this post. The first is a question: could blogging be as “real” an intellectual pursuit as (for instance) writing a theological book?

Now, I understand that they are different in many respects, and that the organizational skill and perseverance required to put together a full book are much more significant than that required to post to a blog. And yet, consider the case of Samuel Johnson … here is a man who is renowned as one of the best writers of modern English; and yet, lexicography aside, he is primarily known for a series of Essays, which could be easily compared with a blog (although I doubt that very many blogs would have author-translated Latin epigrams). So, in that sense, a blog could be great literature (although, recognition as such might be more difficult).

Now, you could say: that’s all well and good, but theology is much weightier than general literature; therefore, a person who doesn’t have a doctorate cannot hope to make a serious contribution to the body of Christian knowledge and thought, and certainly not in a blog.

And yet, many of the major thinkers of the Reformed faith disseminated their ideas chiefly through pamphlets. Often these would be larger in scope and more focused in purpose than the average blog post, and certainly few of them did not write books as well, but shouldn’t this demonstrate that a blog-like format can indeed (if the writer has a mind to match) reach these same heights?

Ah yes, you will say, but what about study? This will shortly lead me into my second idea. Consider, though, that for every Jonathan Edwards slaving away 13 hours a day, recognized as a genius throughout the world, there is a man like Soren Kierkegaard, who lives in squalor and misery, publishes against great opposition, and dies in ignominy. Or, again, for every “Doctor of the Church”, there is a fisherman or tax collector, whose writings form the bulk of their study.

Expanding further, many of the minds that I understand and appreciate the most have something in common. Samuel Johnson, Soren Kierkegaard, and many others like them, were poor students. It was only later in life that they achieved their greatness, and there is always an element of the auto-didact in their accomplishments … they stand outside of the “hierarchy” of learning, and thus, can achieve greater heights, perhaps, than they would have reached inside the hierarchy and its limitations. Some people thrive in this hierarchy; but I have always understood those “outside the camp”, if you will, a little better.

I would in no way compare myself to the minds and talents of such as these, but I always felt that there was an artificial aspect to study that I could never quite connect my mind to. Just as I never really learned how to program computers effectively until I needed to do it on the job, I never really felt that I could write effectively within the context of assignments. And this, I think, is why part of me hopes that blogging is an acceptable medium — because for some reason, when I have to write neither more nor less than what I think, and only when I think it, I am able to reach heights of sublime thought and a precision of expression that always seemed to elude me in the classroom, even when I was successful.

So, what do you think? Is theology blogging enlightened auto-didact democracy, or church by mob rule? Discuss.


One Response to “Mixed Media”

  1. dslavich Says:

    I think blogging is a helpful, yet limited medium for communication and/or serious thinking.

    For me, it provides the type of structure that I need to actually do anything. I wish I were someone motivated strictly by the impulse of his own genius. But I’m not. My genius needs a kick a junk sometimes to get itself going.

    I think, like anything, blogging is less about the medium and more about the person doing it. A smart person will probably contribute helpfully when they blog on something. An idiot or lazy tool, not so much.

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