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Odd Bits and the Occasional Long-Form Essay

Some thoughts on my theology blogging in 2017.

April 02, 2017Filed under theology#writingMarkdown source

In the midst of congratulating me on finishing up my M. Div. classwork a few weeks ago, an acquaintance noted—as a joke, but with more than a kernel of truth to it—that he was looking forward to even more podcasting and more blogging from me, what with my freer schedule. I laughed and agreed: no doubt I will have a bit more time for both (though I don’t currently plan to add any more podcasts to the already long list).

But one of the things I’m considering carefully is what theological blogging will look like for me now, and in the years ahead. Most of the theological content on this site in the past four years has come directly out of my coursework. (Click into the Theology section of the site and see how many items are tagged #sebts. It’s most of them.) My theological writing before that (here and here) was largely a mix of the exploratory, the explanatory, and the response-to-current-events kinds of blogging.

In the exploratory category, I was working out my thoughts on given topics in public. My personal devotions posts back in 2013 fit well here: these were basically reflecting “out loud” on whatever I was studying in the Bible any given day. In the explanatory category, I was laying out how I’d already come to think on a given topic, in the hopes it would be helpful to others. This post from 2013 and this post from 2010 are both good examples of that. My book reviews fit somewhere else in that mix, too—a bit of both of those, probably. And finally there were the (even then rather rare for me) responses to other articles out there. All of those are a good kind of blogging.

The problem is that I’m not particularly sure I want to be doing any of them quite like I was three to five years ago—and I’m quite sure I don’t want to be doing it like I was ten years ago!

In the last few years, I’ve found my voice as a technical writer. I know that I can site down and work out even a fairly complicated subject in software in a voice that is approachable and engaging, and which people seem to enjoy reading. But at the same time, I’ve “lost” my voice as a theological writer, though lost is the wrong word for it. It’s not so much that I couldn’t write the way I did a few years ago, but that I don’t want to. I’m glad for people doing that kind of casual blogging, and I still read a few of those blogs (mostly by friends). But I mostly quit reading Justin Taylor or Kevin DeYoung or Thabiti Anyabwile1 or any of the others I read regularly a few years ago—they’re generally publishing good material, and I think they’re a gift to evangelicals. But very little of what they’re saying is particularly interesting to me at this point. They’re doing great topical work. I’m much more interested in looking at structural and systems-level questions, or at things which really can’t be addressed well in the 500–2,000-word range, but require a long essay at a minimum or even a book to tease out the nuances of. I was starting to feel that way a few years ago; and my experiences in seminary have (in ways that might not be exactly what you expect of a seminary experience2) sharpened that profoundly.

I do want to write on things theological, whether those be theology proper, or theological anthropology, or the ways those press out into ethics and culture and politics and family life and so on. But not so much in the regular-blogger-tackling-current-issues way. People are doing that, and doing it well. Go read Matthew Loftus or Samuel James over at Mere O; read Alan Jacobsplease read Alan Jacobs—read anyone you find helpful along those lines. It just won’t be me. I’m far more interested in essays than in blog posts at this point in this space.

As such, what I’m going to be doing here, I expect, will be more in the “thinking out loud about topics I’m chewing on” vein. Snippets, not long blog posts—but perhaps pieces of things on the way to being full-blown essays. I’m thinking hard about something I’m calling “algorithmism” (you can follow the bits I’m reading online on that subject via Pinboard). Don’t expect regularity, and certainly don’t expect hot takes or even commentary on what is current. Odd bits and the occasional long-form essay are more likely to make appearances here.

  1. All of whom, amusingly enough, ended up at The Gospel Coalition. Another thing which has changed in the last five years is that indie bloggers are even more rare; the move away from individual sites and toward blogging networks which was hitting when I started seminary has turned into a de facto standard.

  2. It’s not because SEBTS was an incredibly academic school which turned me into an overly-academically-minded person. Perhaps I’ll write on that more in the future, but it’s totally ancillary to this post.