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.

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Comments

  1. Adam S August 14, 2009 at 6:18 am

    I am glad you keep blogging. It helps me to think better and more clearly about many topics that I wouldn’t think about. (Well except the sports, I just ignore the sports posts.)
    I will say that it is often easier to say something when you disagree than when you agree. When you agree you often don’t have much more to say about the topic (other than “that’s great” or “I agree”). When you disagree there is something more to interact with. It is unfortunate but that is the way my mind usually works.
    If it is any consolation I read almost everything and only post every couple weeks 🙂

  2. LKH August 14, 2009 at 6:36 am

    I for one am very glad you keep blogging. Thanks for putting in the time and effort!

  3. Michael William Smith August 14, 2009 at 7:05 am

    Thank you Dr. Armstrong for your blogs. I do benefit from them! Thank you for allowing the Lord Jesus Christ to work through you with a burning passion for all God’s people!

  4. Bryan Cross August 14, 2009 at 7:25 am

    John,
    Regarding your goal of a “world-wide church that is one in Christ”, do you think Christ founded the Church with that kind of visible unity?
    If so, when exactly do you think the Church lost visible unity as one of its four marks, and how does such a thesis avoid ecclessial deism? How do you know that this event was a splitting of the Church, and not a “schism from” the Church? Furthermore, how do you know that the brand new institution you would form would be the same institution Christ founded, rather than a man-made Tower of Babel?
    But, if Christ did not found His Church with that kind of unity (but with only invisible unity), then why would you want to go beyond Christ in trying to bring a greater unity to the Church than that with which He initially established it? If Christ founded His Church with only invisible unity, then since we already have invisible unity right now, what’s the point of ecumenicism?
    That’s the dilemma for Calvin, and for any Protestant ecumenist.
    In the peace of Christ,
    – Bryan

  5. Bruce Newman August 14, 2009 at 8:06 am

    I for one read you daily and feel I have benefited immensely. Your words, and the books I’ve purchased after reading your words, have greatly expanded my view. I am 53 and have been a Protestant for 30 years. I am seriously thinking of becoming Catholic. This is not because of you; there is a long story behind it. But I was totally unprepared for the sheer venom and ungodly reactions I’ve gotten from Christians I’ve known for years. You would think I announced my intention to become a rapist. In fact I think that may have been better received. There have even been “good” church folk suggest to my wife that she may need to leave me. I do not understand this and I have no desire at all to be part of “Christians” such as these. It is indeed the most bizarre thing I’ve experienced in my Christian walk. I’m black and I never thought I’d experience this kind of prejudice for talking about becoming Catholic. With these kinds of people calling themselves Christian it is no wonder to me that the world does not take us seriously.

  6. thegroundworks August 14, 2009 at 8:49 am

    I’m glad you persist in blogging because you are a good writer, topics are balanced, well thought out and edifying….always insightful. Wish more blogs resembled this model!

  7. Ed Holm August 14, 2009 at 9:15 am

    A note to Bruce:
    Bruce we live in a time in which civility is viewed as weakness and a lack of commitment to our notions of truth. Be encouraged, follow where the Spirit and your conscience lead you and remember that most of these people could care less about your salvation but rather it is only their self-pride that matters. God be with you.

  8. Gene Redlin August 14, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Bruce, I get it.
    I too am very attracted to all things Catholic.
    Find myself discouraged with the Protestant mindset.
    As a Pentecostal who believes in Miracles, Signs and the Supernatural I find myself more in alignment with the Catholic church than the rational reasoned requirements imposed by much that is Protestant. One that says, unless we understand it rationally we can’t believe it. That grates on me. Faith isn’t like that as I see it.
    Blessings on your quest.

  9. Richard Wattenbarger August 14, 2009 at 11:26 am

    John, I think your blog is one of the web’s true and all-too-rare treasures. Keep it up!

  10. Chris Criminger August 14, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Hi Everyone,
    For ecumenical Protestants and Catholics, this has been said before but I guess it bears repeating many times.
    Ecumenicalists are not for starting a new denomination or involved in a Catholic conspiracy to take over Protestantism.
    We are for greater ecclesial embodiment by living out visible unity in fellowship, partnership, and even inter-communion.
    We don’t believe in a monolithic Christianity and we also don’t believe in a divided Christendom sustained by an invisible ecclesiology either.
    The truth is always in the middle of such extremes for those who have eyes to see.

  11. Ray Prigodich August 14, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    John,
    Although I sometimes disagree with your perspectives, I, too, greatly value your blog. If I always agreed with what you wrote, there wouldn’t be much point in my reading it. I need to be stimulated, challenged, and stretched. I need to be made to think outside the box. So please keep writing, so that your readers can keep growing. Although I may sometimes challenge what you’ve written, I hope I come across as a member of the friendly opposition.

  12. Raj Vishnushah Sreeni August 14, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Dear John,
    One strange thing that happens to me when I read your blogs is something I’m ashamed of.
    When I read about all the money you spend going to the movies, and also to baseball games in different cities, I become jealous and somewhat resentful.
    When people like me despite working hard and trying to make a living still can’t afford to spend money on movies and sports, it’s hard to read your movie/sports blogs without being jealous.
    You said that you’re trying to show your human side by posting these, but would it be possible to refrain from talking about these for the sake of “the weaker brother”? If I feel like this in the USA, I’m sure our poorer brethren feel much the same. They have barely enough money to eat well, and I’m sure it’s also hard on them to read about spending money on leisure activities.
    Thanks brother.

  13. Craig R. Higgins August 15, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Keep up the blogging, John. You encourage us both to think deeply and to live charitably along the way of Jesus’ mission to the world.

  14. Chris Criminger August 15, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Dear John,
    Let your own conscience dictate but I can’t see how not talking about cultural issues whether that be movies or baseball or the things we love should not be done because of the weaker brother?
    Whose to say whose the weaker brother and the stronger brother anyway? I try to view myself as the weaker brother rather than the stronger one. Actually, the movies and baseball posts keep things lighthearted and lively in a good way from my persprctive. Nor can I see how not talking about certain things because it cost money. The truth from this weaker brother is you save me money. I don’t go to certain movies for example because you steered me away from it and I too can only go every once in a while so I need good Christian reviews to keep me informed.
    Another word from a weaker brother. I hope you keep the posts coming but do as the Spirit leads you brother.

  15. Nick Morgan August 16, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Hi John,
    Keep up the Blogging my brother! You know this Ecumenically minded Roman Catholic with strong Evangelical sentiment stands behind you and your work 100%! We certainly don’t always agree with one another on specifics of Ecclesiology and the exact nature of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist; but we share a deep and vital union with Christ and with one another as the Body of Christ in spite of our divisions. I enjoy this blog very much and always benefit from reading it. God bless you always my friend!

  16. Susanne Barrett August 16, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    I for one have benefitted greatly from your blogging and I encourage you to “keep on keeping on”! I feel like a lone voice in my evangelical church as I encourage others to see the continuity of 20 centuries of church practice and worship and desire to address shortcomings in my own Christian life. You have been an instrumental teacher and pastor in my eyes, and I pray for your ministry to continue to blossom into a tool that draws people into the Kingdom of God.
    Most sincerely yours,
    Susanne Barrett
    MeditativeMeanderings.blogspot.com

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