Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Proverbs for Christian Blogging: Write with “Stumblers” in Mind

You’ve all met the guy that has a ton of theological knowledge but little experience in how to apply it.  He has a library of systematic theology, biblical studies, and “how to do ministry” books that is growing faster than a rabbit’s family after its wedding night.  Yet when it comes to needing counsel you’d probably rather talk with your drunken Uncle Jack because at least he’d understand what you are going through. 

For those that love knowledge and truth and facts and Bible Trivia it can be really difficult to also love a very basic principle: every truth is not fitting for every person or for every time.  This is why Proverbs 12:23 says

A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly. 

Charles Bridges rightly comments on this passage that, “knowledge is a talent to be wisely, not promiscuously, communicated.”  Of course we are never to hide the precious truths of the gospel.  Gospel preaching is never to be closed for the season.  But there are some things of which it is quite prudent to conceal for a season. 

The Problem with Blogging

This truth creates a problem for blogging.  Whenever I hit “publish” on my Windows Live Writer, and my latest article makes its way to Al Gore’s basement only to then be jettisoned out into the world wide web for all to read, I have no control over who reads it.  I have a vague idea of my audience but for the most part I never really know who will read it. 

This can become problematic because not everything I write is meant for every person in my audience.  Take my recent article on Why I’m Opposed to New Calvinism.  That is meant for a very select audience.  There are people that could very easily stumble upon my blog and read that and be confused rather than helped.  While I mean it to be helpful to one slice of my audience it could actually stir up a sense of disunity within other spheres of my influence. 

This problem is even greater because almost every modern reader instinctively believes that they can handle everything that is written by every author.  If you can Google it you can handle it, is the assumption.  But that is simply not true. 

I’m not ready to read much of anything in the realm of astro-physics.  (I’m not even sure what Astro-physics is except for trying to understand the science behind the movement of the Jetson family dog).  In the same way there are certain theological concepts and discussions that are not meant for everyone.  Not that it’s hidden or there is some vast conspiracy to keep knowledge from you.  It’s just that there are a few prerequisites that you ought to read and grasp first. 

In sum, this is the conundrum.  Not every truth is fitting for every person or for every time.  Almost every modern reader assumes that today is the right season for his acquisition of this knowledge.  I can’t stop him from reading what I publish.  So how do I “conceal knowledge” when it is prudent to do so?  Should I shut down the blog even though it can be beneficial to a great number of people?  I don’t think that is the answer. 

A Small Solution

Though it may be difficult to actively “conceal knowledge” that may not be helpful for some readers, I can do a couple of things to apply this proverb.  First, I can diligently labor to not be the fool described in the latter half of the verse. 

Charles Bridges describes the fool well:

The fool however proclaims his foolishness.  He imprudently opens his heart.  He is dogmatical in dispute, when wiser men are cautious.  He is teaching, when he ought to take the learner’s place; his self-confidence proclaiming his emptiness.  Self-distrust and humility are most important, to enable us to improve the gifts of God for his glory.

I don’t want to simply write as fool who spews about with every passing thought that comes to my mind.  I want to be a careful blogger.  When I ought to take the learner’s place I want to humbly sit there.  When I ought to be cautious instead of dogmatic I want to be.  And at the same time in the things in which I ought to teach in and be dogmatic on I want to do with grace, passion, and humility. 

The second thing that I can do to follow this proverb is write with the “stumbler” in mind.  By “stumbler” I don’t mean the poor lad that stumbles into sin because of something he reads.  Although, I do want to avoid millstones around my neck that is not what I mean in this context.  What I mean by “stumbler” is the person that “just so happens to have stumbled onto my blog”. 

And let me tell you there have been some really weird “stumbles” onto Borrowed Light.  I get a good flow of traffic each month from people looking for “little kittens”, “cousin Eddie”, and “bitter old men”.  My goal is to write in such a way that the guy who finds my article on Cousin Eddie may also see the beauty of Christ as well.  So as I write every article I want to have the “stumbler” in the back of my mind. 

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