By Bob Hiller –
I’ve been thinking a lot about writing blogs lately. Having to produce weekly content on The Jagged Word is a strange experience. As Doc Scott pointed out some time back, doing this on a consistent basis is a bit of a roller coaster. I wonder what sort of good my words are doing, if any. Or I grow too proud of what I write, and then I feel foolish over the pride but shoot to make myself proud again next week. I’m a very self-involved person, after all. Does this simply become white noise, or are we doing some good ruffling some feathers in the blackhole that is Lutheran social media? Is there any value, or even virtue, in writing a weekly blog?
One of the reasons I find this to be a valuable exercise is that I have always had a good time discussing theology. Yes, I do hope our blogs produce discussion. Whether you agree with The Jagged Word or not (and I don’t agree with everything we post), I think that we do know how to get people talking (Even if it’s in anger, it’s cool. Keep it jagged!). I hope those discussions help everyone hone their theological minds and examine their own ecclesiastical practices. I particularly hope that we get people, both hearers and proclaimers, thinking about preaching, especially in their own contexts and congregations.
What I worry about when it comes to my little Friday posts and about theological blogging and conversation in general is that all this becomes nothing more than philosophical banter about God. Too often, our theological discourse diminishes into proof-texting for the win. You have your views about the Bible, and I have my views about preaching. We all have some view on the distinction of Law and Gospel. But at the end of the day, we’re just spouting off our views to prove how right we are. I used to quip that I loved seminary because there we could do theology without consequences. It was full of ivory tower debates with big words and no real-world import. And beer. Ah, that was the life!
Real theology can never be done in an ivory tower vacuum like that. There is no such thing as theology without consequences. There is no such thing as a sermon that doesn’t accomplish something. There is no such thing as Law that doesn’t accuse (or guide, if it must be said) or Gospel that doesn’t forgive. There is no such thing as a Word that leaves God’s mouth and returns empty (Isaiah 55:11). The Word of God is always active in a particular context, in a particular ear, with a particular purpose, addressing a particular issue.
One of the dangers of writing a blog, of theology, is that it tends to happen in a decontextualized way, forgetting the particular. I am convinced that much of the pushback we get for our blogs happens because the context of our detractors differs from the one the blog was produced in. At the very least, the detractor didn’t take the time to ask the question of what was happening in our congregations and lives that would produce what is written. I’m not knocking the detractors, I don’t always ask them what they are facing before I write. But hopefully, our blogs can drive more faithful thinking no matter what the situation.
My predecessor at my previous congregation wrote a book called Down in the Weeds, in which he wrote little vignettes about life in that blessed place. I love the title of the book because it reminds me of where theology must take place: down in the weeds. Every pastor comes to realize that theology is not a game of God-philosophy but the act of God’s unchanging Word invading the difficult, filthy, fearful, sinful lives of Christ’s beloved Church. God’s Word is always aiming at real ears and real hearts. It’s looking to attack sin and raise the dead, not to be right for its own sake. In that way, doing theology is an act of love for the Church, not an exercise for the academy. Theology is found in the weeds of the lives of God’s people, on the lips of another, in the ears of a blood-bought hearer.
Anyhow, this was a bit self-reflective (self-indulgent?) this week, I know. I simply hope that what we are doing here serves to help the Church and her preachers down in the weeds. After all, God has put His Word on all of our lips so it will be found in all of our ears and hearts. Hopefully, our blogs help get folks talking!