Christian blogging — a way forward, part 1

The-way-forward-for-SMFS

Yesterday, I wrote about some of my frustrations with the evangelical blogosphere. In my next few posts, I want to point out the things that make some bad blogs, and then suggest some ways this could be fixed. These will be a series of personal impressions. I’m not trying to be “objective,” but simply to point out a handful of things that bother me most.

If you feel differently, or can think of ways I can nuance and refine what I’m suggesting, please let me know in the comments. Also, I’ll be giving some examples but won’t directly criticize particular blogs. That doesn’t seem smart.

Anyway, on with the show:

Don’t pretend to be something you’re not.

This is difficult for everyone, I think — especially me. It’s easy to start thinking you know a lot because you have an M.Div. (or are working toward one). But the sad reality is that too many evangelicals try to blog about things they don’t really understand. As an example, I can think of numerous people who opposed the “New Perspective on Paul” and wrote extensively about their opinions while obviously not understanding the issues in all their complexity. (And they are complex, so don’t ask me what I think.)*

The worst part about it is that when someone does this, they rob their blog of what could make it great. The beauty of the blogosphere is that anyone can make it if they find their niche. Anyone. You don’t even have to be a “good writer,” you just have to have something worthwhile to say in a way no one says it already. And everyone has something worthwhile to say.

This is what makes Tim Challies so successful, I think — his book reviews. There aren’t many evangelicals on the internet (if any) who read so much popular Christian literature and write so much about what they read than he does. That strikes me as a good model.

*Now, full disclosure: I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged about NPP before. In college! Shame on me.

Don’t let yourself become the “conservative/liberal/moderate” person.

I know this kind of goes against what I just said about finding your niche, but this has more to do with your ideological posturing than your content or style. Regardless of how good your niche is, if everything you write comes from this predetermined mindset that you’re going to be conservative, you’ll become “the conservative blogger about _____.” The same way, if you’re attitude toward everything is rile up your readers and push the envelope, or challenge the status quo, you’re becoming the “edgy blogger about ____.”

This works for some people. But to my mind it makes a bad blog, and a bad blog is one I won’t read. I don’t like reading blogs that either always affirm my opinion or always challenge it. Ideally, you want your conservatively-inclined reader to heartily support some things you say but then be challenged other times. Same thing for your liberally-inclined reader (and you should want that kind!). A good rule of thumb might be you don’t want any single reader to agree with everything you say. That won’t happen anyway of course, if you write enough, but your goal should be for your reader to always think, not always nod her head in agreement.

An excellent example of how to do it right is the biblical archaeology blog called BiblePlaces, run by Todd Bolen and Seth Rodriquez. The writers certainly seem to come from a conservative mold, but Bolen in particular doesn’t give people slack because they claim to support the biblical account. If the “evidence” comes from a poor reading of the biblical text or shoddy archaeological methodology, he doesn’t hesitate to point out the errors just because the person seems “conservative.”

The Gospel Coalition is pretty good at this in content but poor in broader approach. They write about art, literature, movies, secular music and all sorts of things the evangelical Reformed tend to overlook. That’s great. But, as an evangelical Reformed myself, I don’t think I’ve ever come away from a TGC piece thinking, “that was a little left of where I am.” Not as great.

More tomorrow. Meanwhile, again, this is my opinion. Tell me yours in the comments.

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