Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Blogging about the evils of blogging about the evils of blogging about...

Internet controversy gives us the liberty to play theological video games. That is, it is vicarious, faux drama, exciting enough to keep us tapping away at our keyboards but not so exciting that we lose sleep. We read an attack site (discernment blog, as they like to call themselves), and find that the kingdom is crumbling because Joel Osteen’s book is being carried in some LifeWay store somewhere, or because a guy in our camp invited a guy in their camp to speak at a conference. We head over to our favorite guru’s blog to get the straight skinny on just what the respectable ones are saying about this issue or that.
In all this reading, all this key-stroking, what we are really stroking is our egos. We think that by keeping up with the controversy we are really fighting the battle. And because of all the Internet play it is getting, we know it is the battle for the ages. We think we are fighting off Suleiman’s Muslim assault on Vienna, preserving Western Christianity, when all we are really doing is playing with toy soldiers. Like those who fought in the Saint Crispin’s Day battle, we can then go to our beds thinking ourselves fine fellows for having been in the fight. We, in short, aim far and miss far.
The real battles are these: Will I speak graciously to my children today? Will I have a grateful and cheerful heart about my neighbors, my fellow employees, those with whom I worship? Will I go to war against gossip, not by pointing out the gossip of others but by tending my own garden? Whether some evangelical superstar embraces some mystical prayer form is less important to the kingdom’s future than whether I will pray faithfully for that little girl with the brain tumor.
It is true that the world out there matters. There are controversies that count. Martin Luther changed the world, facing bullies like David before Goliath. But when his beloved wife, Katie, trusted in the finished work of Christ alone, that changed eternity.
Not many of us worry about what we will eat or what we will wear. Sadly, that’s not because we’re so spiritual; rather, it is because we are so prosperous. Having been freed from such worries, do we then focus on pursuing the kingdom of God and His righteousness, or do we instead worry about the future of this theological coalition or the direction of that shared blog? Pursue the kingdom by pursuing His righteousness. And then all these things will be added to you. Stop your fretting. The future does not depend on you. It depends on the One on whom you depend.
There is someone wrong on the Internet. It’s probably you. Log off, hug your kids, kiss your wife, and go get some of His rest. The world will not only be there when you get back, it will have been made better.

I’m afraid this is one of those pious-sounding bromides that doesn’t make much sense.

i) To begin with, I’ve never understood people who are oblivious to their own glaring contradictions. Sproul Jr. is, himself, resorting to the Internet to condemn the Internet. So is he on an ego-trip, too?

And this isn’t an isolated case. His platform is a major online ministry.

ii) In addition, has he forgotten the parable of the talents (Mt 25:14-30)? Sure, most Christian bloggers won’t have the impact of Martin Luther. So what?

What’s wrong with making the most of whatever God has given you? Due to talent, institutional position, and/or historical position, some Christians wield far more influence than others.

But does that mean we should disdain the efforts of Christians who labor in obscurity? Shouldn’t we bloom where we’re planted? God gives some Christians a vast ranch, and others a little vegetable garden. But shouldn’t we be just as faithful in a small calling as a great calling?

Success is cumulative. A series of little victories. Augustine was hugely influential in church history. But if it wasn’t for Monica, there’d be no Augustine. Many Christians doing their little best adds up to a great good.

iii) Yes, there’s a danger that blogging can siphon off too much time from other obligations. Blogging shouldn’t edge out friendship evangelism, or prayer time, or domestic duties.

But while single out blogging? The same can be said for sermon preparation, or writing commentaries.

iv) As a rule, I think it’s a good thing when young men get delve into theological controversies on the Internet. At least they’re interested in theology. At least they take it seriously. That’s a good way to channel their youthful energy.

Of course, there’s nothing virtuous about controversy for its own sake, but if they weren’t fighting theological battles, they’d be fighting for something far less important.

I’ve read Christians who complain about how our culture idolizes sports. Well, to the extent that that’s true, isn’t it good to divert some of that energy to Christian doctrine and ethics? Let’s be grateful.

Young folks could do a lot worse than blog about theology. Indeed, consider how young folks who are not into theology spend their time. 


  1. There is no such place as "on the Internet". It is a method of communication, and we are communicating with real people.

  2. I like how you think I'm a real person.

  3. At least I think you are real ... :-)

  4. Three of the most divisive people in the Christian blogosphere, constantly engaged in theological conflicts and disputes, all on this post/thread: Steve Hays, John Bugay, and Rhology.

    God bless you all.

  5. Thanks Truth, I guess we are the "divides" part.

    Since you all are here, I'll tell you I am at the short stay unit at the hospital. Beth had her regularly-scheduled bone marrow biopsy. We will get the results from that on Friday, but in the meantime, based on all her other tests, he thinks the leukemia is gone. At this point, if she is disease free, there is about a 90% chance that she will not relapse.

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  7. The great thing about online debates is that you get real interaction with real people. It's not like reading a book on apologetics or some highly academic book. Those have their place, of course, but scholars will allow you to make moves that your atheist neighbour across the street will challenge and your book on apologetics more often than not will present objections to the faith as forcefully as internet atheists will and it's good to see how intelligent Christians handle them. It's like having a front row seat to a real life clash of ideas.

    Seeing people debate theology online has made me a better exegete, theologian, and Christian. Of course you're bound to see some knobs arguing online too but isn't that true of any medium?

    1. I have always enjoyed opportunities to "test my thoughts" on hostile discussion boards. Sometimes it gets unpleasant, but it's the best way I've found to understand what your interlocutors are thinking, and how best you can respond to them in a meaningful way.

  8. In all this reading, all this key-stroking, what we are really stroking is our egos.

    Then you, Mr. Sproul, need to get the heck out of the home-schooling movement. He's one of the proponents that advocates home-schooling even through college as much as is humanly possible, but the problem is he couldn't do so without recommending taking online courses in exchange for meeting in person with other individuals. Your remarks are rock-solid, Steve. There are plenty of actually dangerous things to complain about without complaining about young people being "too involved" in studying theology (is that even possible?). Sproul Jr. hear needs to stop whining and be grateful.

    In my humble unbiased opinion (coughcough*), this is a hand-tip to the fear that people like him have. When you can't trust young people even after they're practically ready to marry and live alone to survive college on their own, then you're a deeply fearful person. I think our Mr. Sproul Jr. just had a build-up of the fear of the freedom people have on the internet and felt compelled to diss it but, like you said Steve, did so out of mock piety and without care of self-contradiction.

    Some might say I'm being too harsh, but this is how these people think. Younger Christians aren't supposed to have the guts to enter the ring and defend their worldviews against the opposition because that's too dangerous and should be avoided. If he didn't think that he wouldn't recommend against attending college. Now, even though Christians regularly enter the blogosphere and successfully refute false religions and false doctrine, all Sproul Jr. has left is to assume we're doing so out of pride, therefore it's still some big bad thing that must be avoided just like college.

    Sorry if any fans of his don't appreciate my words, but he implicated pride on the parts of certain people, so he left himself wide-open to the same charges. We have enough trouble with cultic fundamentalist legalists trying to spread their fear to other Christians already without popular figures like Sproul Jr. coming along and messing things up too.

    Thanks once again, Steve, for your response.

  9. "There is someone wrong on the Internet. It’s probably you. Log off, hug your kids, kiss your wife, and go get some of His rest. The world will not only be there when you get back, it will have been made better."

    Sorry Jr. can't "kiss his wife" anymore. She died a few months ago.
    But Jr. still has 8 "kids to hug".
    I think Jr. should "get some of His rest".

    Rested warriors fight better.

  10. AMEN! It seems to me that only "some" theologians are worthy enough to have their thoughts and interpretations posted for others to see. Whenever anyone questions them, we're evil for being bloggers! ridiculous! (and i'm not even speaking of Sproul, perhaps he and another prominent pastor of whom i'm thinking are buddies???)

    Ultimately, if you put yourself out there, on the internet, you can hardly begrudge when people disagree with you loudly. I think it helps to balance things out anyway, good checks and balances to help keep any one guy from too much power.

    1. good checks and balances to help keep any one guy from too much power

      Steve Hays is one guy who has yet to be checked or balanced. He's like the Incredible Hulk with a twist: the angrier he gets, the smarter he gets. In the Hall of Superheroes, he's got his own unique display.