Speaking as a white under 30 conservative evangelical charismatic Christian male human who works in Digital, I couldn’t help but notice a rather provocative article hosted over at Christianity Today about authority and blogging.
You should read it before you read the rest of my post.
If you are reading this then you are quite literally indulging me and my opinion. You probably won’t know much about me – and that’s fine, because ultimately I don’t want you to. I want you to know and encounter the risen Jesus, coming and victorious King of everything. Hopefully I try and communicate that, in one way or another, with every post I write and other things that I do. But this post is not directly about that. This post is about why despite being one man on his own on the internet, the fact is that this fact alone is not who I am, and I forget that at my peril. And so do you, dear reader. Discernment is vital. But so, I am slowly learning, is authority, relationship, and thoughtful depth.
I started blogging back in 2010, at the age of 19. I was single, in my first year of studying theology at University, and living at home when I wasn’t conducting extensive research into the pubs and takeaway shops of Nottingham. I started to blog, as was brilliantly lampooned by my best man at our wedding, because I thought and still do think that I have something to say. Fast forward to now and some things have changed. Other things, importantly, haven’t really changed. When I started this obnoxious practice of spewing my thoughts and words all over the internet, I had not learnt a few things, some of which I’ve learnt along the way. One of those lessons has been an increased sense of the importance of healthy relationship, leading to personal accountability and the cultivation and pursuit of an appropriate relationship with authority. For things that I write here, do complain to me directly, or to my wife if you know her. I’m lucky to have on and offline accountability/discernment groups, as well as friends who will ask hard questions. If something is just way off-base theologically, then please do get in touch with one of the pastors at the church I’m part of – the South West London Vineyard (it goes without saying that anything I write here doesn’t reflect the position of the church).
People who know me are not enough though. They could be compromised in identical ways to me. And so personal accountability is vital – but because I live with my wife, regularly see my friends, and connect with my pastor, they are not enough to really be accountable. That is why I think something that I might call network accountability is important. Personal accountability is vital – particularly in this global age. But humans have not always followed Jesus in this context, culture and chronological time. Which is why respect for is important. So how does accountibility network? What am I – or any blogger – connected to to give me shape, scope, direction, authority and something to talk about? Bluntly, the answer is quite simple. I should write and think in the light of what I know, but also what those who have gone before me know. Church history, the study of theology, the various views of the global church, and key philosophical developments all give a shape and a sense to the way that I should think and write. Within the Christian family (historically, globally, ideologically) there is plenty of room for disagreement. But I can’t ignore what has gone before, what has happened in and amongst the world, and the kind of networks that I connect to. For me, this is a complex blend, that I’ve tried to sketch narratively on my ‘about’ page on this website.
Ultimately, and by this I mean in worldly terms, questions of authority and accountability are pointless. This is why I would want to stress the vitality and centrality of Jesus. For me, as for every Christian, Jesus is the one who has ultimate authority over everything I do and every word I waste online. One day, the bible reminds us, we will be held to account. Jesus says in Matthew 12:36 something that should put a shiver down our collective communicative spines:
“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.“
What am I saying? Why am I saying it? Is what I’m saying informed by anything or deformed by everything? As a blogger, I can’t go it alone. Ultimately, I’ll be called to account for the things I’ve written. Because, as I’m so keen to point out and tell you about, Jesus is alive.
So I disagree with those who rightly recognise that the information landscape has changed, but then (in my limited, personal opinion) think wrongly that either we should give up on truth and encourage our People to discern for themselves OR that we should in some way take back control of whatever we can, clamping down the truth and using in-and-out language in a world that is always changing. The reality is that the landscape of ideas, teaching and thought-exchange has changed but the reality and urgency of Jesus has not. Individuals like me can do a lot of damage – which is why I think it’s important to regularly reassess what we are doing as communicators, in my own small scale or for those with book deals and institutional platforms. This is why I’ve written this post, talked to my wife and pastor, and hopefully said what I’m thinking. Yet individuals like me can also do good.
Engage with truth.
And so on.
Because, in the light of everything else, it is good to talk.