Does Christian Blogging Rend the Bride of Christ?

by Mike Leake on January 24, 2014 · 23 comments

For the past month or so I’ve been slowly reading Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry. It’s a fascinating look at how LEGO nearly went under about a decade ago, but righted the ship when they returned to what made LEGO unique. It’s an engaging story and one that I believe has many lessons for the Church.

In the 1990’s LEGO responded to a rapidly changing toy market by pursuing innovation in a number of areas. In essence they got away from the brick (the thing that makes LEGO unique) and it almost killed them:

The company was trying to expand on so many fronts, it was in danger of losing its focus and discipline. If just a couple of those bets went bad, all of the LEGO Group might come crashing down. (Robertson, Location 918)

As I scan through my Feedly, and read hundreds of articles on all things Christian, I have to wonder if Christian blogging is causing the Church to spread itself too thin.

I’ve been blogging for awhile now and I think I understand the game fairly well. I know, for the most part, what type of article is likely to have a wide reach and which ones will sit on my site and collect dust. One that will gain traffic is the “Should Christians…” type of article.

One recent example—and I’m questioning my wisdom in making this specific—is this article by Owen Strachan. In that article Strachan asks whether or not Christians should step away from such a violent sport like football. The discussion was picked up on TGC and many other spots and for weeks we debated the question. SBTS even scheduled a discussion on the issue.

It’s not my intention to discuss the question of football. Instead I want to consider the positives and negatives of “Should Christians…” articles.

The Healthy

In one sense the fact that we are discussing such issues is a testament to health. It was almost 20 years ago that Mark Noll, in his Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, lamented the languishing intellectual landscape of evangelicalism. His fear was that even though evangelicalism grew from the soil of brilliant thinkers, an entrenched anti-intellectualism had left us unable to really speak with much intelligence into anything cultural.

While there is still an anti-intellectualism spread throughout our churches, I believe Noll would write a different book in our day. In one sense it is healthy that we are using our minds and giving a meaningful Christian voice to many of the cultural debates of our day. That’s a good thing.

The Question

Ideas have consequences. The tribe that I most closely align (The Gospel Coalition, YRR, T4G, etc.) seems to have made it their goal to be the voice for evangelicalism. If someone has a question about what evangelicals believe on a certain issue the TGC crowd wants to be the  place where Christians would point their internet browser to find that answer. At least it appears to me that this is at least a goal.

That idea has a consequence. For one, if you want to be the voice on all things pertaining to evangelicalism that means that you also have to speak to difficult issues in your own ranks. Your critiques will ring hollow if they don’t also apply to those within your ranks.

Secondly, being the voice on a number of issues (often tertiary issues) will have a tendency to divide the body of Christ along lines that ought not be drawn. When you ask things like, “should Christians enjoy football” and you do so in the hopes of being the voice for evangelicals I can’t help but think that uniformity will result rather than unity.

I find these words by Richard Baxter helpful:

…ministers must smart when the Church is wounded, and be so far from being the leaders in divisions, that they should take it as a principal part of their work to prevent and heal them. Day and night should they bend their studies to find out means to close such breaches…They must, therefore, keep close to the ancient simplicity of the Christian faith, and the foundation and center of catholic unity. (Baxter, 123)

After reading Baxter’s words here I have to question the wisdom of writing “Should Christians…” type of articles on disputable matters. It creates needless division and causes us to be spread too thin.

To go back to the LEGO analogy, it could be argued that such an article isn’t pursuing innovation outside of the brick. These authors, it could be argued, are actually pursuing innovation inside the brick. In other words, they are asking questions that flow out of the gospel. Such as, “How does the gospel inform our watching of football?”

I understand the need of that. We need to be able to flesh out the implications of the gospel—otherwise we’ll end up needing another book like The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. But I fear that we spend too much effort and energy trying to achieve uniformity on areas that are implications of the gospel and not making every effort to pursue unity in the gospel.

Conclusion

I believe that our energy and effort ought to be spent on that which we have that is truly unique; namely, the gospel message and our union with Jesus Christ. Let’s spend our time helping weary saints grab hold of Jesus rather than trying to flesh out all the implications of that action.

Again, I think Baxter is wise:

…we must learn to see the true state of controversies, and reduce them to the very point where the difference lieth, and not make them seem greater than they are. Instead of quarreling with our brethren, we must combine against the common adversaries… (Baxter, 124)

Let’s not rend the bride of Christ trying to pursue uniformity on disputable matters. Instead let’s use our blogging platforms to build up the body of Christ and make every effort to maintain the unity that Jesus has already purchased for us. What if we used blogging to close breaches instead of create them?

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Trevin Wax January 24, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Mike,

Thanks for a thoughtful post on the good, the bad, and the ugly unintended consequences of blogs and tribes. There’s a lot to be said for avoiding endless debates online, and wisdom should dictate which controversies we speak to and which ones we stay away from.

There are a couple places, however, where I’d encourage a broader perspective on what it means to be Jesus-focused. You write: “Let’s spend our time helping weary saints grab hold of Jesus rather than trying to flesh out all the implications of that action.” I’m not sure that’s possible. At the end of the day, I don’t think we are properly Jesus-focused unless we are actively trying to flesh out all the implications of the gospel in our daily lives. And that’s where the controversies arise.

Case in point, my earlier post this month – “Evangelicals and Hollywood Muck” – about the film habits of young evangelicals. That kind of caution, thinking out loud, starting discussion is (I hope) beneficial to others who are “fleshing out the implications” of being Jesus-focused, particularly when it comes to entertainment choices. It may cause controversy, but that’s not because it was intended to do so.

One other thing… You write about TGC becoming the voice for evangelicalism: “If someone has a question about what evangelicals believe on a certain issue the TGC crowd wants to be the place where Christians would point their internet browser to find that answer.”

I don’t know that anyone associated with TGC’s website has such lofty goals. I know for myself, a blog is a place for conversation and occasional insights that are (hopefully) edifying. Evangelicalism is so diverse that I’d be skeptical of anyone trying to become “the” voice. I do believe the TGC bloggers and contributors want that site to be a helpful resource for churches and Christians seeking to live faithfully.

Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

Reply

2 Mike Leake January 24, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Trevin,
Thanks for interacting, my friend. I agree with you that “grabbing hold of Jesus” and fleshing out what the looks like in day to day living is not easily separated nor should it be. What I was attempting to say is probably better stated to my last paragraph, “trying to pursue uniformity on disputable matters”.

I could have swore that I heard or read somewhere that TGC had such an ambition. I thought it came from D.A. Carson. But I could be totally wrong on that. But you would know far better than I on this–and so I’ll concede my point. You’ll note that I also said, “At least it appears to me that this is at least a goal.”

Reply

3 Trevin Wax January 24, 2014 at 5:54 pm

You’re probably right that Carson has said something like making TGC a hub for conservative evangelicals, but I doubt he was talking primarily about the website. I suspect he was talking about TGC as a council. The goal is to renew the center of evangelicalism around the basics of the gospel. Of course, some would say they’ve drawn the circle too narrow (no egalitarians, no Arminians), but I think there’s a video out there where they discuss this very issue. Carson says something like he hopes other groups will also form coalitions that are centered on the gospel, regardless of their differences with TGC, etc.

Reply

4 Mike Leake January 24, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Let me also say that this piece is one of balance. One could take this article and run with it in a really terrible direction. I’m not advocating a shallow Christianity that cannot and does not speak to real issues and how to flesh out the Christian life. So please read it with that in mind.

Reply

5 Todd Benkert January 24, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Piggybacking on Trevin here, I tend to treat blogging as a place to present ideas and have conversations about them.

When it comes to the “Should Christians…?” posts, there are two main approaches I see. One is a post that tries to convince. That is, a post that is arguing for a particular point of view. The question is raised and then answered, with arguments for the writers POV. If the questions remain unanswered, you have a pretty good idea how the writer is leaning.

The second focuses on the question itself and tries to show all the pieces of the puzzle that need to be answered and aspects that may not be considered. The writer may give some guidance, but often does not arrive at a definitive answer. Rather, this second kind of post is intended to provoke good discussion on the issue.

Reply

6 Jim Hedrick January 24, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Good thinking brothers. A note. In my 50 plus years of associating with brothers and sisters in Christ and in Adam I see way more energy give to the should I as a Christian….and WWJD application questions. I believe we all should be asking the who am I question more. More emphasis on being and less on doing might help us be stronger disciples.

Reply

7 Dave Miller January 24, 2014 at 4:05 pm

I believe that blogging is one of the most positive developments in the SBC in recent years.

Blogging has shined light on a lot of issues. Some of the shenanigans that WOULD have happened were stopped by the light blogging shined on things.
Blogging has democratized the SBC – giving average Joe Baptists a voice we did not formally have.
Blogging has opened the door to greater understanding on topics, to discussion, and to community.

And everything I just said about blogging I could say against it. Blogging is like fire – under control it warms, out of control it burns. Blogging is like paint – applied to wall it beautifies, poured on someone’s head it uglifies!

Blogging is not good or bad in and of itself. It is as good as the godliness, self-control, Spirit-filled and Spirit-fruited behavior of the blogger. It is as bad as the angry, bitter divisiveness, the insulting pejorative nature and the fleshly behavior of the blogger.

Overall, I think the SBC is better off for the blogging phenomenon. On the other hand, it has done a lot of hurt!

Reply

8 Mike Leake January 24, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Dave,
I think you are absolutely correct. (And Dale in the comment below). Perhaps this would be better title Do Christian Bloggers Rend the Bride of Christ? And again I think the answer to that depends on the blogger. And to those that visit that bloggers “home”.

Reply

9 Tim Rogers (@Timothy_Rogers) January 25, 2014 at 10:47 am

Dave & Mike

I believe the way blogging made its debut in 2006 in the SBC is really what we see behind the question. I am aware blogging was going on before 2006 but it was then that it made an impact in the SBC. The impact it made was shown with the disruption of the IMB Trustees and the election of a new President not crowned by those who usually do the coronation.

I believe the insertion of voices into the debate that normally are not heard from is a good thing. However, and Dave I am sure you can attest to this, the needless attacks from those who view themselves as the “overseer” for all that is holy certainly would be a “rending” of the bride of Christ.

Reply

10 Tarheel January 25, 2014 at 12:13 pm

“I believe the insertion of voices into the debate that normally are not heard from is a good thing. However, and Dave I am sure you can attest to this, the needless attacks from those who view themselves as the “overseer” for all that is holy certainly would be a “rending” of the bride of Christ.”

Agreed!

I’d only add that, and im sure Dave will attest, that who view themselves of defenders of the Southern Baptist kingdom castle and definers of the doctrine that is to be held by “legit southern baptists” are equally renders of the Bride of Christ as well.

Reply

11 Volfan007 January 25, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Tarheel,

We shouldn’t act mean and ugly…..I agree. But, we should strive to keep the SBC doctrinally true to the Bible. We should encourage and exhort everyone, who belongs to our fellowship called the SBC, to stay true to the Bible. Would you want an SBC leader teaching that people can lose their salvation? Or, that baptizing infants is okay? I don’t….I wouldn’t want to be a part of a SBC like that. Would you?

David

12 Tarheel January 25, 2014 at 3:36 pm

We’re in agreement there, VolFan.

Reply

13 Tarheel January 25, 2014 at 3:53 pm

If we unify around the BFM we’re golden…it’s when we start adding stipulations beyond that…that I have a problem with.

Eternal security, believers baptism and fidelity to scripture are all clearly dealt with therein.

Other matters like election and eschatology for example leave room (intentionally) for “debate”/”disagreement” while still being true to the these spirit and letter of the confessional statement.

It’s when People start saying that true southern baptists must hold to _________________ or reject ________________ that I have issue with.

It also bothers me when southern Baptists say/imply that non southern baptist indiduals who are faithful to biblical and protestant orthodoxy are inferior Christians and somehow unworthy.

Tht what I meant by defending the “SBC kingdom castle”.

14 Dale Pugh January 24, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Christian blogging in and of itself isn’t the problem.
Sometimes Christian bloggers just ask stupid questions and then give stupid answers. I’ll refrain from giving examples.

Reply

15 Greg Harvey January 24, 2014 at 7:36 pm

I think you might need to sing that refrain again and again…like a good Baptist hymn…

Reply

16 Christiane January 24, 2014 at 6:48 pm

“If possible,
so far as it depends on you,
be at peace with all men.”

(Romans 12:18)

I suppose ‘blogging’ stirs ‘contro-versy’ somewhat, but it also brings people together in some startlingly ‘modern’ ways that are possible with the present technology . . . an ‘artificial’ community? . . . no, not where peoples’ needs and prayers to meet those needs abound . . .

a way of communicating can be used for good or for ill, but St. Paul’s words to the Christians in Rome WERE honored,
and ultimately, pagan Rome became converted to Christ, Whom their soldiers had put to death on a Roman cross in the Roman province of Judea
. . . so we CAN search the Scriptures for guidance on what it means as followers of Christ to ‘be at peace with all people’ in our communications, knowing that the pay-off will only yield good for all concerned.

The idea of ‘peace’ as ‘shalom’ is the same concept as what MIKE called ‘healing the breaches’ . . . it is a holy thing to carry within oneself ‘the peace of Christ’ and bring it as healing gift to others.

Reply

17 David Rogers January 24, 2014 at 7:37 pm

I think blogging has just opened the door wider for something that has been going on for a long time, though with a more limited participation and audience. Back in the late 80′s, I somehow found out about a periodical called “Open Forum” in which different writers published articles about theological issues and others wrote responses. I can’t remember the exact guidelines, but pretty much all of the subscribers were allowed to send in responses or to submit articles for the next edition. It was very low-tech. But it gave an avenue for those who wanted to think with other people and discuss theological issues which they might not have otherwise been able to do. It was in a sense, a print-format proto-blog.

Before that, even back in the 19th century, there were Baptist newspapers and circular publications in which different writers would present perspectives and others would respond.

What blogging has done is made all this a lot more convenient and accessible to the average writer, commenter, and reader. It is in many ways, as Dave Miller has mentioned above, the democratization of the SBC (and of other entities as well).

When Luther put the Bible in the hands of the common people, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church didn’t think it was a good thing, and warned that it could get out of hand. To a certain extent, at places like Muenster, it indeed did get out of hand. But to say the new freedom for common people to think about and respond publicly, in a more democratic manner, to the Word of God, was a bad thing would be to pretty much recognize the Catholic Church was right, and Luther, et al, were wrong.

There do need to be some guidelines. And the Internet is almost impossible to control, but in some ways it controls itself. The cream tends to rise to the top. And those who are just sounding off tend to be ignored with the passing of time. And yes, there is some collateral damage in the meantime. But that’s life. It’s better than it would be if we were not free to share our views on things.

It all kind of reminds me of the picture at this link I have seen as a Facebook meme responding to how social media supposedly isolates people:

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-UAvchVUjmsA/Ut09oV4u6KI/AAAAAAAAFnQ/d11pbld_NC8/s400/Media%2Band%2Bsocial%2Bskills.JPG

Reply

18 Bart Barber January 24, 2014 at 8:15 pm

Does Christian ____________ Rend the Bride of Christ?

Yes.

Reply

19 Roger Simpson January 25, 2014 at 11:46 am

Sometimes blogging in the SBC universe may involve using flawed messengers to bring a message that needs to be heard and headed.

But on balance, blogging is a good thing because it exposes abuses by SBC leaders. It makes it more likely that cliques won’t be able to corner the market in SBC leadership.

In retrospect I now know that, as a layman, I’ve sometimes conflated reasoned arguments regarding a dispute in the SBC and using the SBC soapbox to gain a following. I guess there is some ego being stroked if you can win people over to “your side”.

Blogs become perverse when interlocutors are as much or more interested in advancing their own platform than they are in advancing the effectiveness of the whole enterprise. But fortunately, time usually sorts out the wheat from the chaff.

I’ve seen excessive grandstanding on both sides of disputes.

Reply

20 Volfan007 January 25, 2014 at 1:54 pm

BTW Dave, for some reason I am not getting the follow up comments tn to my email. Anyone else having that problem?

David

Reply

21 Stephen Burch January 29, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Here’s a good question to ask of our blogging: is it
in the spirit of this Scripture: “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

Reply

22 Dave Miller January 29, 2014 at 2:47 pm

I appreciate the tone of your comment and agree with it.

However, I think Paul’s determination to know Christ crucified alone was in reference to his entrance into Corinth – primarily an evangelistic approach.

Scripture tells us that we need to also go on to the meat of the Word and to come to understand the full counsel of God’s Word. Everything should rest on the crucifixion of Christ, but sometimes we have to discuss issues that do not specifically relate to Christ’s death.

Does that make sense?

Reply

23 Pastor Tom Mitchell February 11, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Dave – I agree with your thoughts. God calls and gifts each of us for the role we have been given in His Kingdom. For the past 30 years I have written and taught spiritual maturity to the Bride of Christ. All of my books have focused on making disciples; the mandate He has given His bride. But she first has to allow her bridegroom reveal Himself to her and show her the spots, blemishes, and wrinkles He wants to remove so that she can become all that He created her to be. Blessings, Dave, continue the good fight… Pastor Tom

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: