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Saturday, January 29, 2005

on Evangelical blogging

I'm new to this (about a month) and I'm not sure anyone, except me, has ever read anything I've posted, or should.

But here's another try at relevance.

A couple of blogs I have read have a post on somehow increasing the presence of evangelical blogs. As an evangelical, on the face of it, that sounds like a good idea to me. However, on further thought, I'm not so sure. First question is, "why?"

If the why is to magnify Christ, and it works, then it's a good idea. No, a great idea. However, I'm not sure that some evangelical blogging really is about magnifying Christ. I have looked, a little, at what are claimed to be the most widely read evangelical blogs. Some of them read more like Republican blogs. Don't we have enough Red/Blue division already? I'm not sure that blogs like that magnify Christ.

A more fundamental reason for wondering about the value of evangelical blogging, per se, comes from the words of C. S. Lewis, who knew a little something about defending the gospel:

I believe that any Christian who is qualified to write a good popular book on any science may do much more by that than by any directly apologetic work. The difficulty we are up against is this. We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted. As long as that situation exists, widespread success is simply impossible. We must attack the enemy's line of communication. What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians about other subjects--with their Christianity latent. You can see this most easily if you look at it the other way around. Our Faith is not very likely to be shaken by any book on Hinduism. But if whenever we read an elementary book on Geology, Botany, Politics, or Astronomy, we found that its implications were Hindu, that would shake us. It is not the books written in direct defence of Materialism that make the modern man a materialist; it is the materialistic assumptions in all the other books. In the same way, it is not books on Christianity that will really trouble him. But he would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian. The first step to the re-conversion of this country is a series, produced by Christians. . . Its Christianity would have to be latent, not explicit: and of course its science perfectly honest. Science twisted in the interests of apologetics would be sin and folly. C. S. Lewis, "Christian Apologetics," in C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, edited by Walter Hooper. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970, pp. 89-103. Quote is from p. 93.

I have had an experience which illustrates the truth of what Lewis said. Over twenty years ago, I was asked to teach a course in physics, after not having done so for more than fifteen years. I needed to brush up. So I looked, in standard academic sources, for reviews of good books on physics. One such, according to a review, was The Particle Play, by John C. Polkinghorne. It was, indeed, a good introduction to particle physics, an area I needed to learn more about. I was astonished to read this, nearly at the end of the book:

Mathematics, which essentially is the abstract free creation of the human mind, repeatedly provides the indispensable clue to the understanding of the physical world. This happening is so common a process that most of the time we take it for granted. . . . It seems to me a remarkable fact. . . . Israel developed the idea of the Word of God who was his agent in the creation of the world. The Prologue to St. John's gospel not only makes the astonishing identification of that Word with Jesus of Nazareth but also says that the Word is the true light that lightens every man. The use of mathematics to comprehend the universe shows a relation between the workings of our minds and the structure of the world. I believe that this is one aspect of what the writer of the Fourth Gospel is telling us. (John C. Polkinghorne, The Particle Play, Freeman: Oxford, England, 1979, pp. 125-126)

Here, indeed, was a good introduction to particle physics by an author who obviously had a Christian world view.

To paraphrase Lewis for the 21st century, the best way to influence the world through blogging is to create great blogs on baseball, physics, photography, housewifery, travel, and many other subjects, posted by bloggers with a Christian world view.

* * * * *

The text above the asterisks was posted on January 25th, and has not been altered, except that I have colored the quotations.

This is my fourth post today, and I don't expect to keep that up, nor should I.

Another writer, not as well known (at least not yet) as Lewis, said much the same thing:

What makes for a good, Christian movie? In brief, a good, Christian movie is one that is well-crafted and true. A film that does not strive for artistic and aesthetic excellence cannot be a good film. It will be a shoddy or uneven film, making whatever story or message is being told almost impossible to digest, no matter how biblically sound it is. Likewise, a film that does not bear allusive witness to the truth cannot be a good film. This phrase "allusive witness" is intentional, for we are not suggesting the evangelistic film. We're suggesting rather the film that witnesses allusively, obliquely, to the splendor of goodness, the shabbiness of sin, the hunger to be forgiven, the yearning for the divine, the playfulness of creation—all things true—"What Is a Good Christian Movie, Anyway?" (Part 1) by David O. Taylor, posted 07/13/04

Lewis and Taylor are saying something important. The greatest real influence is made by excellence. May I achieve this, and not for my sake.


Anonymous said...

Excellent Post. Thanks for visiting my blog--I liked your contribution! --Marla (

Bonnie said...

I second the motion, Martin! I will be back to read more.

Alan said...

A very good word indeed. While I think a blogger should feel free to comment on whatever they like, it would be helpful if Evangelicals would to share areas of their specific expertise. An Evangelical who works in media, sports, science, technology, medicine, etc., could contrigute greatly by blogging on topics related to these areas. OTOH, it seems that lots of bloggers use blogging as a forum for exploring areas they don't get to deal with in their regular work. It becomes sort of a hobby - or even an escape from the stuff they do day to day. So they get off into theology and political commentary. Should we discourage this? Not necessarily. But you give us a good reminder of how we can be salt and light. Thanks.

Bad said...

Amen! I am so sick of reading posts about George W. Bush, Our Saviour.

jon said...

Professor LaBar,

Thanks for your insightful comments regarding evangelical blogging. I have saved your blog to my favorites and wish you well in your endeavors. I think you will find the blogs you are looking for out there! I am going to post a link to your post here later this AM:

Anonymous said...

Good post. I'm adding your blog to my reading list.

Daddypundit said...

Thanks for your comments. I've struggled with what role I should have with my blog. Should it be more of a theological blog, a political blog, cultural commentary, or all of these things? Although I am still trying to flesh out exactly what God wants me to be writing about I think that it's important to approach whatever the subject matter is from a Christian worldview. As I read more and more blogs I realize that many of the niches I mentioned are already filled by bloggers more talented that I am. I know God will only be satisfied if I am blogging for his glory and not mine.

Kristen said...

Food for thought...thanks.

I particularly agree that we should avoid being only political bloggers. I don't think the topic should be verboten, but I am really turned off by the blogs that seem solely like vehicles for political action. We are citizens of another Kingdom, and we may comment civilian affairs here--but let's not forget the affairs of our Home Country.

Amber Lynn said...

Yea!!! Someone else who sees that this is a great medium to promote Christ!! I have been struggling with many Evangelical Blogs because they get so involved with gray areas but call them black or white. I totally believe we should keep to promoting Christ and having a Spirit of unity/love among one another. See my latest post for more! (I think you can just click on my name and go to the blog.) I also write a bazillion blogs. It's addicting!

My Boaz's Ruth said...

Something interesting I learned in my course on church history:
early Christians called themselves "a pilgrim dwelling in _name of city_" to emphasize that this wasn't their true home.

Beyond The Rim... said...

I also think that generally, apologetics is a waste of time and resources, since from my limited perspective, change of mind comes after change of heart and not the reverse. You cannot argue someone into the kingdom, but you can love them in.

cwv warrior said...

Hey, I'm miserably new at this blog thing too. I have no comments yet but not much posted either. I'm a fellow blogspot blogger. Jollyblogger referenced your CS Lewis quote. Permeating the culture with Christian worldview writing is my passion. Actually, I see it as apologetics. Politics, economics, history, science, (your forte), etc. are where the church becomes relevant. Have you read Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey? She is a science writer but her book goes beyond. There is a large section on science though. Thanks for sharing.

joann said...

Thank you for that post. Excellent thoughts!

Ish said...

Thank you for your commentary, and your wisdom. Blogging is so new to me, but already I've seen mostly political garble. I'm starving for statements like yours which challenge, and make people think. Thanks again.

CharlyG said...

I agree with most of the article , however, I have a link to an article on my blog that gives us reson to argue politics in the public square. It is rather lengthy but from a very clear thinker. Here's the link.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Someone who isn't interested in religion isn't likely to read blogs that concern themselves with it exclusively. It's much better to write about something that non-Christians are interested in, engage them, and if they are seeking something more spiritual, provide it for them.

Alaberi said...

My perspective on evangelical blogging is that it might be best to come at it from a more subtle perspective - to integrate our faith with daily stuff - to show our regular readers (some of whom are bound to be nonbelievers--I know many of mine are!) that the Christian walk is not about being preachy or proseletyzing...but it's a walk of faith and humility... our blogs are a way of evangelizing by example - by sharing struggles (if we're comfortable with doing that with our readers) and letting them see how we integrate faith and real life. Just a thought... thanks for your blogpost! :-)

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks. You are right, although sometimes I think I must be preachy. It's amazing that someone can still find this post, after nearly a year.

Collin Brendemuehl said...

Excellent. Thanks.