As far as I can discern, there are two initial tasks incumbent upon a new participant in the world of blogging: 1) Coming up with a clever and/or catchy title for the blog; and 2) providing an apologetic for “why yet another blog” to take up someone else’s computing time. So I will get right down to fulfilling my obligations as a newly self-minted blogger:
1) Why “Theommentary”?
I’ve decided to call this blog “Theommentary.” You ask (rightly), “What in the world is ‘theommentary’?” Well, as far as I can tell, it is a neologism because it isn’t in the dictionary, and the only two uses that Google could identify were spelling errors! But as you can undoubtedly guess , the word is simply a compound of theology and commentary–thus, theommentary. So, simply put, this blog will be my own “theological commentary” on whatever it is that I think needs commenting on! And I won’t even begin to try to guess what that will be. We’ll see as we go along. As to whether the title “Theommentary” is is either “clever” or “catchy”–I’ll leave that up to you to decide. On to task number 2…
2) Why another blog?
Well, let me start out with a frank confession: As a professor of theology engaged in teaching and research in a college and seminary setting for some 15 years–roughly the same length of time as the internet boom (I remember my first year as a teacher here at Briercrest when I heard about “email”)–I have been for several years now more than a little skeptical (and yes, even scornful at times) of blogs, particularly those engaged in academic discussions of sorts. I thought of these blogs as quick and dirty ways to get one’s writing out to the masses without having to go through the long-standing tradition of submitting manuscripts for scrutiny to peers for publication. Alas! my perspective has had to change on this, particularly as I have observed well established and much respected scholars in my own field continue both to publish and to blog. And so I have to admit that this reason for not blogging is no longer a valid reason to continue my non-blogging.
But I am also a person that needs a better reason to do something than just because everyone else is doing it. I don’t consider myself a “bandwagon” sort of guy (e.g., I don’t own a Blackberry or cell-phone; I don’t go to an “emerging” church; and I don’t particularly care to cheer for the Saskatchewan Roughrighers, even though I’ve lived here the better part of 15 years). So what convinced me to start blogging?
The answer will likely sound more “holier than thou” than I intend it to be, but I have decided to blog as a partial way to fulfill my calling to be teacher to the church–a calling I took seriously enough to pursue a doctorate in an area (theology) that likely has little chance of making my family permanently and comfortably financially secure and to continue working in a geographic location largely isolated from the larger academic centres where research and funding for theologians are more likely to be found.
To be honest, I like to consider myself a theologian (doesn’t that sound sophisticated??), but the Bible doesn’t really call anyone a theologian. What it does recognize is the place and need for “pastor/teachers” (cf. Eph 4:11). From this biblical perspective, then, I need constantly to remind myself that the primary sense of my calling is not as a theologian per se, even if professionally that is what I am. Rather, I am a pastor/teacher. And pastor/teachers, well, amongst many other things–teach. And as they teach, they are confronted with using new media to accomplish that calling. I consider blogging to be one more medium that, with all its pros and cons, more and more people in the Church are using and that her teachers, therefore, need also to contend with. Indeed, I believe a good teacher is someone who is marked by a continued commitment to learn. Here at Briercrest Seminary, one of our oft-talked about values is that our students would become “life-long learners.” Taking the plunge and learning to blog, I think, is one way that I realized that I, too, have to keep learning. So in this regard, I think about how some of the great theologians of the past learned to work with the new media: Martin Luther’s use of the printing press; Carl F. H. Henry’s use of a “magazine” format for theological dissemination; Reinhold Niebuhr’s unparalleled output of newspaper editorials in the secular press, and Paul Tillich’s intellectually stimulating lectures in the public university, and now the widely read blogs of theologians (to name just a few) such as Scot McKnight, Richard Mouw, Albert Mohler, Ben Myers, and John Stackhouse, Jr.
So, I consider this blog an extension of my calling to be teacher in the service of Christ and his Church. As such, I want it to inform and to challenge all those who read it and who also call upon Jesus as Lord–and for that matter, I also want to be challenged to respond in a theologically intelligent way to the issues that might be pressed upon me.
That said, don’t take my entry (yet) to the blog world as my “blessing” on the medium. Marshall McLuhan rightly understood, I think, that there is no such thing as a “neutral” medium and the weblog is no exception to the rule. I’m not sure we yet know what the implications are for a church increasingly engaged in blogging, nor more than Martin Luther clearly understood (he didn’t) how a widely published vernacular Bible would affect the Church in the decades and centuries to follow. Maybe the profusion of blogs will be good for the church, maybe it will be bad. More than likely it will be both both and good. It is my prayer, though, that we will know the difference when called upon to make that judgement.
Whatever the case, for now I embark on the task of blogging with the following distinction in mind: my favourite theologian Karl Barth (you wondered how long it would take me to mention him, didn’t you?) once made a distinction between what he called “regular” and “irregular” dogmatics. “Regular” dogmatics, according to Barth, is the methodical reflection on the whole of revelation in an orderly fashion and is contained in books, lectures, and sermon series. His own massive Church Dogmatics would be a prime example of the “regular dogmatics” at work. In contrast,
Reflection on scripture and revelation, on God’s Word above, behind, and in [DG: notice the allusion to Lutheran sacramental theology?] the sermons one hears or preaches, when done in terms of isolated thoughts or from specific standpoints or for particular reasons, is irregular dogmatics, a little of which all of us secretly do and which we ought to do boldly, especially if we are pastors. (Karl Barth, Göttingen Dogmatics, 38)
So, in deference to the Swiss master, I have convinced myself that blogging should be viewed, at least in part, as a manifestation of my pastoral/teaching task to be engaged in “irregular dogmatics.”
Just please help me to remember, readers, not to neglect my work in regular dogmatics for the sake of the irregular dogmatics found in this blog.