I ask myself, now and then, “Why do you still blog?” The work behind this writing is time consuming and sometimes I would just as soon quit. I can tell that after some years of doing this"the dew is off the rose." The real answer lies in my experience of this growing medium of communication. Let me explain.
I am positively not a controversialist. I much prefer to study and teach people who want to learn and grow, not engage in debates with fellow Christians. I listen to others teach and seek to better grasp the truth as it is found in Jesus Christ through what I hear and learn. Since truth is not an abstract system to be discovered but a person to be known and loved I learn freely and simply. The person who is the truth is Jesus, the eternal Word. Because his truth is discovered in Christians, and through deep Christian teaching and reflection upon the Holy Scripture, I listen attentively to the whole catholic church. By this approach I learn all that I can from everyone who reverently “hears him.” I believe the best learning actually occurs in a context of love and listening. Without this context we are not learning. We may be rearranging our personal prejudices but we are most definitely not learning.
Blogs are often used to stir controversy and create debates. They are also used to gain support for causes and movements. Some of my posts might seem to foster this end. Several friends, to use but one example, asked me if this was my goal in writing about Mary last week. I answered, “No, not at all.” I wrote those three blogs because I wanted to create a place for conversation and listening. I wanted, to be specific, to encourage my evangelical readers to listen to the catholic tradition. Evangelicals are so focused on the Bible that they seem unable to admit that they are actually interpreting the Bible every time they read it and argue about what it actually says. When I invoke the tradition of the early church, and the teaching of the fathers, these evangelicals see this as in direct conflict with the Scripture. But such is not the case. I am seeking to “listen” to great Christians who read and understood the Bible long before I got here. In fact, I am doing this in much the same way my opponents listen to their favorite (modern) Bible teacher. The difference here is that the people I am listening to often formed a meaningful consensus that remains extremely important to faith and godliness. Face it, these early church interpreters lived a lot closer to the apostles and the culture of the New Testament than we do. They should at least be given a seat at the modern table in terms of their beliefs and practices. This ancient-future faith perspective is gaining momentum every day. I welcome it. I want to encourage evangelicals to realize just how much they depend on modernity and the Enlightenment to form their conservative opinions about the Bible. In so doing I want them to move away from the Enlightenment enterprise. By understanding this problem they can better hear the canonical witness of Jesus Christ, who is the only truth.
On the other side of the debate about Mary I also wanted my Catholic friends to see just how much an evangelical and Reformed Christian can embrace the traditions of the early church. I wanted them to see how a Reformed Christian teacher can sit at the feet of these important teachers and profit immeasurably from them. I really take Patristic study very seriously. I really do think consensual orthodoxy matters. I agree with a statement that A. Basil Mitchell once made about John Calvin. Mitchell said Calvin was “mastered by the vision of a world-wide church [that was] one in Christ, and he regarded it as one of the great ends of his earthly mission to promote its realization.” This is my goal and this is the major reason why I keep writing new blogs every day.
If you haven’t noticed I write about all kinds of subjects, including my personal interests. I do this because I am a fully human writer and thinker who desires that those who read me will get to know me, not simply as a thinker, but as a real person. I too learn from real people. I learn best from the people I actually know. This is why biography interests me even though I am primarily devoted to theology. Blogs allow this personal part of learning to happen in a marvelous way as readers see how human I really am as a person. This all falls short of actually spending time with a person face-to-face but it does open a real door to grace and truth as it is incarnated in the person (me in this case) who writes. When I get discouraged about the way my blogs are used and debated, and thus very often misunderstood, I come back to this point: There are real people reading these posts who truly profit from them. I know this is true because I have met many of these folks and they express deep appreciation for this material. They keep me going to be very honest. Plus, these same readers actually pray for me. None of us can place an adequate measure on the importance of intercession. I am sure I cannot.
There is a charitable way to read a person’s ideas through blogs. There is also an uncharitable way to read such posts. You can read a person charitably and remain convinced that they are quite wrong. Many readers read my words in this way. I can tell this by the tone and content of their responses. They disagree with me but they get the point and learn in the process. Such readers help me to think more clearly too. But still others read my words seeking to discern my motives.
My posts about Mary underscored this very point. Some saw a sinister motive in these three posts. They asked or wondered, “Aren’t you denying something fundamentally biblical?” (The answer is no, not at all. If Mary was, for example, a virgin her whole life then what does this do to anything essential to the faith of evangelicals? If she did remain a virgin does this belief magnify the Lord in a unique way?) Others wonder, “Are you in danger of becoming a Catholic?” I find these responses totally unhelpful. It reveals the way people think, not what I intend by my posts.
Perhaps the thing that excites me the most about writing these blogs is this—I know Christians from many backgrounds read my words and benefit from them. I find this humbling and very deeply satisfying. I pray that God uses my words “to promote the realization” of a biblical vision of the one catholic church. This is how I understand John 17 and this informs all my attempts to write and influence others.