I feel like I'm having my 3rd "going out of business" sale this week - but dramatic exits aside, I did want to follow up my exit with a brief explanation. You'll notice that I didn't offer one initially - I should have kn0wn better. My church experiences over the last few years has been a poignant reminder that a vacuum of explanation will always be filled by spurious data - controversy is always more fun than reality.
I'm not throwing in the turban because I'm as sensitive as some might believe me to be - I have ample chest hair, and a stunning capacity for dead-lifting heavy objects. All that to say I would hate for you to imagine me slumped over my keyboard, crying like Gidget on a date gone wrong at my poor reception in the blogosphere. I've been warmly welcomed and respectfully recieved by most.
I would also hate for anyone to imagine that I'm selling the silverware over various rhetorical scuffles on PyroManiacs. I do have to admit, however, that it's not long before my presence in the meta renews old frustrations - but I'm never under the illusion that I'm not asking for it. I know what I'm going to hear before I go over there, and yet I persist, to their puzzlement and sometimes mine. Am I just looking for attention, or do I really think that they'll reverse some of the strongest and dearest convictions they hold in life? Although I can't say that I ever enjoy the often curt, sometimes dissmissive and usually immediate evaluations of my comments (as though they were simply my "answers" waiting to be checked by their "answer key"), my real reasons for showing up aren't spoken often enough - I really do love most of what I read there. I happen to find insatiable delight in the exaltation of God's sovereign majesty. As often as I am frustrated by various disagreements, I am pleasantly surprised by posts which don't fit the caricature of the Reformed Baptist obsession with doctrine for doctrine's sake (such as James' recent post on the Messiah and Justice - actually pretty much everything James says, some of Frank Turk's stuff on missions and Phil's interaction with Michael Spencer in the comments to this post). Some trusted friends have told me to stay away - but I can't. I agree with so much (let God be my judge!) that I long for genuine interaction on the points with which I don't agree. I'm sure that there are a few patrons of the Pyros who would sneer at that, but I've recieved the strangest (and kindest!) emails from those who foolishly fuel the hope of that possibility (which is hindered every bit as much by me as it is Phil Johnson)!
But, that brings me to the real reason for my limey fork-flinging to come to an end - I answered someone who asked if it was the way I was being treated by Phil and Tim Bayly that "broke the camels back" (I feel like throwing in a "as it were" somewhere around here, just for Tim). I answered "yes and no". Hopefully the above can help to fill in the "no" a little. But, now for the "yes": I started blogging because I like to read - not Sweet Valley High, not The Grapes of Wrath, not The Prayer of Jabez, and God help me, not even the better devotional literature - I like to read books which are directly related to the personal discovery of Bible study: books on method - theological, hermeneutical, ethical, historical and grammatical. It's my only real hobby. That's not something to brag about, either - I've heard Solomon's warning (Ec. 12:12) and I believe in its wisdom. I'll not bore anyone trying to convince them that it's my love for the treasure I have in Scripture that fuels my desire in this way; and I'll certainly not waste any time trying not to sound pedantic or self-important (too late). Let's just say that "academic respectability" isn't really something I'm all that worried about in a small church where most of my constituents could care less about "variegated nomism". I'm painfully aware that 1) it's not like I've read bags of academic books 2) that sort of interest is one very small part of the Christian life 3) I've not necessarily understood a single thing I've read - but that's where the blog was supposed to come in. I wanted a forum to log my thoughts and recieve feedback with a view toward processing what happens to strike me in the reading. And all of that, of course, was with a view toward growing in my ability to understand and apply Scripture.
Yet, after about a year on the blogosphere I've discovered something (partially through PyroManiacs, but elsewhere as well): being in process is something you're not really allowed to do in public when it comes to theology - at least not in the theo-blogging community. My church family allows me the room to grow in my leadership skills, my preaching, my marriage, my parenting and any number of sanctification issues. Growth in these areas take both time and experience. You can't simulate it by repeating someone else's preaching style, mimicking someone else's relationships, carbon-copying someone else's parenting techniques, etc. But when it comes to theological stimulation on the internet, it seems as though the growth is expected to take place all at once. Very few bloggers allow people to "work through" theological convictions without enormous suspicion. When you are handed a particular set of convictions and told that it is the truth, you may, if you're lucky, be told how such a person arrived at it. But once you attempt to get there yourself, by the power of your own conviction (asking questions and challenging what sounds funny) it's assumed that you are aiding (if not identifying yourself with) the enemies of the truth. It's as though someone were snapping their fingers saying, "Have a perfect marriage - NOW!!!" and then accusing you of rebellion for not complying immediately.
Please hear me right there - I'm not talking about trying to re-invent the foundational truths expressed in the earliest creeds and consensus, or the plainest saving truths about the Gospel - but in trying to evaluate the theological proposals of other Christians according to Scripture, and in trying to reexamine my own theology according to the Scriptures, I'm realizing that what people want to see isn't that you're INTERESTED in the answer, or that you're wrestling with Scripture in COMING to the answer, it's that you HAVE IT ALREADY. The general lack of willingness to let you get there, or patiently walk with you in the process makes this whole exercise seem like more of a loss than a win for me, and it felt like time to cut my losses.
The fear of relativism (which may in fact be one of the most deplorable evils of our time) seems to result in impatient frustration with Christians who question them about their interpretations or theological convictions. More than that, the moment a person stops to ask (in faith!) "have I missed something that the Scriptures teach about justification or the Gospel?" its bemoaned that the postmodernists have won. The question itself is viewed as a fickle willingness to forsake the Gospel instead of a faithful desire to hear God and not ourselves in Scripture. And that strikes at the core of what it means for me to believe in the Bible's authority - namely that in my study it always maintains the right to say I'm wrong.
The fact is that I know what I believe - but I want the Scriptures to have the authority to scrutinize my beliefs in practice, not just in theory (as do many of those with whom I disagree). Sadly, I genuinely don't know how to demonstrate that on the blogosphere without alienating those whose theology happens to be the most like mine. It just seems like more grief than it's worth. Anyway, hopefully that helps to explain the departure. Thanks again for your well-wishing.
It wasn't very well thought out, it certainly wasn't carefully edited - but it's REALLY the last one.