This is the fourth installment in a series looking at the theology of blogging (“Towards a theology of Blogging,” “The Blog as a Non-Biblical Genre for a Biblical Practice“). Specifically, I am interested in theoblogs, that is, blogs that specifically focus on raising and addressing theological issues. In the third and latest post, we looked at the “un-ordained voice” of the blogger. To address the church through preaching or authoring books, a rather complex process of screening has preceded. One must be appointed (or at least invited) by a church to stand behind the pulpit, and book manuscripts have to endure a series of editorial reviews before publication.
But when we offer our theological thoughts by way of a blog, all we have to do is sign up for an account with WordPress, Blogger, etc. and click the blue “Publish” icon.
Considering the growing influence of bloggers in the life of the church, how does this new media format affect theological discourse among God’s people? How can such a vast array of “un-ordained voices” be potentially harmful? These questions, tentatively addressed in the previous post in the series, strike me as immensely important and deserving of careful attention as we navigate our way through the church’s gradual embrace of new media.
In this post, however, we are looking at the potential benefits those “un-ordained voices” amplified through blogs may bring to the church.
As the Bible makes clear, God often ordains the “un-ordained.” He has a way of appointing the un-appointable to speak with authority. Moses—the exiled murderer with a speech impediment—is sent to Pharaoh, and his voice becomes the most influential of the Old Testament. Daniel—a Jewish kid held hostage in a Persian palace—becomes counselor to one of the most notorious kings in ancient history. When chief priests and scribes (clearly the authoritative experts on Israel’s Scriptures) wanted to shush little kids in the Temple one day, Jesus quoted Psalm 8:2—”have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” (Mt 21:16).
We should not be surprised to find God using un-ordained voices.
Many of the prophets were fringe-characters outside the establishment of Israel’s leadership. Elijah lived out in the wilds by the brook Cherith (1 Kgs 17:1-7), and during the same time, faithful Obadiah (a reluctant employee of King Ahab) took a hundred of the Lord’s prophets in hid them in a cave (1 Kgs 18:1-4). Jeremiah seemed too young to warrant a following and Amos (unlike his contemporary, Isaiah, who dwelled in royal courts) was a local shepherd out in Tekoa.
The prophetic voice is often addressed to God’s people from the fringes, from outside the realm of established authority. Blogs can be ideal media outlets for this sort of voice so crucial for the health of the church.
That phrase “for the health of the church,” however, cannot be emphasized enough, because prophets are not the only voices crying out from the margins. Embittered cynics are among those un-ordained fringe-voices. Both prophets and cynics can be quite shrill, but there is a difference in motive and intention. Cynics are motivated by a disgust for the church; prophets are called to share in God’s own pathos toward the church. Now, sometimes, God himself may be disgusted and angry with certain behaviors he observes among us. But the prophet’s disappointment is to be sourced in God’s anguish, not in a petty sense of personal annoyance with church-folk! And a prophetic voice, however harsh, is intended to draw the people of God back to God, not to divide and scatter them to the winds.
Many of us who keep blogs do so as a public journal of sorts. Maybe we are writing to share with family and friends our daily adventures. But a number of us are clicking “Publish” to release into the cyber realm our thinking about God, culture, and the church. We write at great risk as “un-ordained”—what we say about those topics in public without much accountability can be quite influential at times. But God may also be calling us to write from that unique fringe-position (a position outside the normal realm of established authority) from which our words sound forth as voices crying out of the cyber-wilderness.