Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Goodbye, Blog

The following are excerpts from an interesting article entitled “Goodbye, Blog” by Alan Jacobs, a professor of English at Wheaton College.

“I thought that the blogs could provide an alternative venue where more risky ideas could be offered and debated, where real intellectual progress might take place outside the System. And sometimes this happens.”

“But this sort of thing happens all too rarely in the blogosphere, at least in part because of what Laurence Lessig calls the "architecture" of the online world, and more specifically of blogs. . . . Whatever one thinks about the structure of the internet as a whole, it is becoming increasingly clear that the particular architecture of the blogosphere is the chief impediment to its becoming a place where new ideas can be deployed, tested, and developed. Take, for instance, the problem of comments. . . . At the bottom of each post will be the hyperlinked word "comments," usually followed by a parenthesis indicating the number of responses to the post: click on the word and you get to see all those comments. That's where the real conversation is supposed to take place. And sometimes it does; but often it doesn't—or rather, the conversation just gets started and then peters out before it can really become productive. And this happens not because of inertia, but largely because the anatomy of a blog makes a serious conversation all but impossible.”

“Architecture is of course not everything here; human nature is at work too. I think first of the extraordinary anger that seems to be more present in the blogosphere than in everyday life. Debate after debate—on almost every site I visit, including the ones devoted to Christianity—either escalates from rational discourse into sneering and name-calling or just bypasses reason altogether and starts with the abuse. Partly this derives from the anonymity of blog comments: people rarely identify themselves by their real names, and the email addresses that they sometimes provide rarely give clues about their identity: a person who is safe from substantive reprisals is probably more easily tempted to express rage.”

“ . . . the blogosphere inevitably accelerates the pace of debate to the timetable of daily journalism. In terms of how they treat substantive ideas, blogs are not very different from newspapers: they present an idea and then move on, as quickly as possible, to the next idea.”

“ . . . the same problems afflict the intellectual and moral environments of the blogs. There is no privacy: all conversations are utterly public. The arrogant, the ignorant, and the bullheaded constantly threaten to drown out the saintly, and for that matter the merely knowledgeable, or at least overwhelm them with sheer numbers. And the architecture of the blog (and its associated technologies like rss), with its constant emphasis on novelty, militates against leisurely conversations. It is no insult to the recent, but already cherished, institution of the blogosphere to say that blogs cannot do everything well. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, the blogosphere is the friend of information but the enemy of thought.”

I would like to reiterate some points my friend Jenson had brought up in his post on blogging:

Problems with Blogs

Like all good things, there are flips sides. There are many disadvantages and problems with blogs. I agree with the preacher who criticised blogs and discussion boards. His criticisms were:

1) Although there are serious blogs written by those who wish to edify others, many blog writers are trying to influence others with ill-researched, ignorant, or superficial nonsense. They ought to be pupils and not teachers.
2) Many of the blog writers are flippant, i.e. their first thoughts are immediately put down in writing, and tend to be silly things anyway.
3) Many of these blog writers are keen to exhibit their opinions (e.g. "What is your take on this and that?").

I would expand on his points with 3 more points/examples:

4) They have become a vehicle for promoting novel ideas and/or heresies which years ago a Christian would never have heard about or bothered with. For example, Non-Lordship Salvation, Federal Vision Theology and others. Literature based on these novel ideas and/or heresies is scarce but their proponents are very vocal on blogs and discussion boards.
5) Many Christians are unwittingly sucked into these novel ideas and/or heresies due to a lack of discernment. I remember a person on a discussion board who learnt his Covenant Theology from another person on the board, instead of going to the Bible and sound Christian books. Soon after, he took his Covenant Theology too far and ended up with the Federal Vision Theology group - with presumptious regeneration, paedocommunion and all of that. Today he is advocating the use of incense in church worship - I think he will soon find his way back to Rome.
The blog and discussion board culture has become a place to "let off" steam, wash dirty linen in public or just gossip.

To the aforementioned points, I would like to add the following.

Points to note for Christian bloggers:

1. Blogs are not places whereby one attempts to exhibit his/her knowledge or abilities - be it spiritual or secular. Remember Paul’s maxim, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth (1 Cor. 8:1).” If one thinks that he/she is equipped to edify the saints, do so in a godly manner, and avoid unnecessary ad hominem attacks and name-calling. Better still; edify your brethren from your own church as a priority. If one does not have the time to worship God and to serve in one’s own church, why bother spending time writing on blogs?

2. Be responsible for what is written on your own blog. If you are unsure with regard to the content or doctrinal integrity of your writing, try writing something else. Endeavor to ensure that what you write is edifying for your fellow brethren. “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another (Romans 14:19).”

3. Remember your position as “fellow workers unto the kingdom of God (Col. 4:11).” Let the fruit of the Spirit be evident in your life, even in your writings and speech, and not the works of the flesh i.e. hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings etc (Galatians 5:19-21).

4. The blog is not the place to be prima donnas. If the Lord has endowed you with gifts, let these gifts be useful within the body of Christ. Be faithful in service and attendance in a faithful church. Assist the pastor and the leaders in various ways, and to the best of your abilities. If you think that you are exceptional in certain gifts, the church will know it very soon when you start serving.

5. Use the blog to encourage, to teach sound doctrines, and to edify. When good doctrinal discourses are impossible e.g. due to lack of time, lack of good contributions/comments from fellow bloggers, or from lack of knowledge, avoid unnecessary hurtful words and personal attacks. You are a child of God.

And I pray that I am able to adhere to good blogging habits stated above. By the way, I’m not saying goodbye to my blog just yet.


Jenson's Blog said...

very good post, and thanks for the link to the article at Christianity Today.

ddd said...

Thanks for the good article and the reminder.

Mike Messerli said...


thanks, great blog...much needed.

Mike Messerli