Over the past few weeks I have read several articles about blogging written by and for Christians. On the whole these articles acknowledge the possible utility of blogging, yet warn against investing oneself too heavily in this new medium. While many people see that blogs are probably here to stay and that they do have much practical value, there are many who remain skeptical. Based on an article he posted on Saturday, it seems that Mark Dever is one of these people, even though he now participates in the Together for the Gospel blog and two of the other bloggers on that site (Ligon Duncan and Al Mohler) blog elsewhere.
Dever wrote a little post called “The Unbearable Lightness of Blogs.” He writes:
One reason that I’ve been reluctant to enter the blogosphere is that I am concerned that blog-writing and reading only adds to a bad tendency that we today already have—a fascination with the newest, latest, and most recent. And the newest and latest also often means that which is of only immediate value, that which is passing. That is opposed to that which is enduring, and which has in fact endured and lasted. We write words here which crawl along electronically and leap out through your fingers and eyes to take precious minutes and hours that the Lord has entrusted to us. Could these small things we write really be that important?
It is true, of course, that many blogs are of very little value. There are tens of thousands of blogs that discuss the latest Hollywood fashion victims, track the plastic surgeries of the stars and do little more than provide a play-by-play of the tortured existence of today’s teenagers. No one needs to read these sites and, in most cases, no one should. I might even suggest that blogs dedicated only to what is newest, latest and most recent, no matter what the subject matter, may not have much in the way of lasting value. I think of the many sites such as Boing Boing and others like it - and these are among the most popular of all blogs - that do little more than showcase the latest and greatest gadgets, gizmos and other items that most people neither need or want. Fine, many blogs (and perhaps even most blogs) are a complete waste of time.
Dever goes on to speak about some times of fellowship he enjoyed last week when he was in London, England. “As I came home, I thought that perhaps through a blog like this, we can share something that will be enjoyable, instructive and edifying. Maybe we can model, encourage, and even partially provide that kind of fellowship.”
He could be on to something. Then again, perhaps not. I have yet to find a blog environment that models any genuine sense of fellowship, the likes of which can be compared to face-to-face conversation. It seems that the medium does not lend itself very well to that type of communication. I could be wrong, of course, but I have yet to see a really strong example. There are many blogs that allow and encourage interaction between participants, but few that create an atmosphere that approaches real conversation and fellowship.
After discussing the increasing “lightening” of seminary education, whereby theological studies are made increasingly simple, Dever exhorts his fellow Together for the Gospel bloggers to ensure that blogging does not become too great a priority. While I realize that his comments were directed primarily to the other gentlemen who will participate in this blogging venture with him, I do think they have a wider application and they will, by the very nature of blogging, certainly reach a wider audience. “So be sure and set aside some time to read more substantial things. Commune with the saints that have gone before. Give some time to reading Anselm and Turretin, Samuel Rutherford’s Letters or John Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. And if you still have some time, you can have some other food for your soul—side dishes—snacks—by reading this blog.”
It seems to me that what Dever has done is he has drawn a thick, solid line between blogging and other “valuable” forms of spirituality. Over on this side we have what is of spiritual value: reading the Bible, praying, fellowship and reading good, challenging books. Then over here we have what is of lesser value: blogging. Blogging is something that is to be regarded only as a snack - a light pursuit that has little lasting value. Of course I agree that we must take care that we prioritize our activities. A Christian who is not walking in close fellowship with the Lord has no business reflecting on spirituality in a public setting. Most Christian bloggers would much rather that their readers study the Scriptures rather than their blog - that the reading of a blog be only a supplement to a vibrant personal faith.
What I think Dever misses is that for some, blogging is uniquely connected to spiritual health. It is an extension to or an outpouring of a person’s walk with God. I speak out of personal experience here. The times I spend blogging are almost always connected to times of spiritual edification. I read the Bible and pray in the morning and then turn to my keyboard to reflect on what God has been teaching me. I read a good book and then write about what I have learned through the pages of that book. I read the news and allow world events to interact in my mind (and on my site) with what I know of God’s Word. I have often said that if I stopped reading and stopped spending time with God I would have to stop blogging. I am convinced that if I stall in my spiritual growth I would very soon run out of things to say. Blogging is, to a large extent, a barometer of my spirituality. And that is probably the primary reason that I continue to write. It is often difficult to gauge one’s own spiritual condition. Yet I have found that at the end of a week I can look back at what I have written and see whether I am growing or stagnating. I can see if my attitude has been harsh or sarcastic or if I am showing evidences of the Spirit’s work in my life. I can see whether I have spent my time wisely or if I have been wasteful. So for myself and for many other bloggers, blogging is a public manifestation of a private faith.
Last week, as I was reading Women’s Ministry in the Local Church (written by Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt) I came across a few words that were outside the main text of the book, but which have already proven to mean a lot to me. Hunt wrote the following: “Writing a book is sweet fellowship with the Lord. He instructs me as I write. If no one ever reads it, His purpose has been accomplished in my own soul. I am satisfied. If He is pleased to use it in the lives of others, may He be glorified.”
For myself at least the same is true of blogging. Too often people gauge the success or failure of a blog or a particular article within a blog by how much interest and attention it gains. Sites that receive a lot of traffic are assumed to be better than those that gain only a handful of readers. Articles that generate 100 comments are deemed better than those that receive only 5. I feel that this betrays a wrong attitude. It could be that the greatest value in blogging is in the hearts of those who write. The time they spend in sweet fellowship with the Lord writing and studying should bring them great satisfaction. If God chooses to use a site or an article to touch other people’s lives, then may He receive all the glory.
So as the church grapples with this new medium - with blogging and the Internet - I would urge caution that we do not equate all blogs. A blog is merely the medium. A blog is little more than an ordered list of postings or articles. These postings can have no value or they can have great value. They can do great good or they can do great harm. We should evaluate a site on the message it brings rather than the way it brings that message.