25 April 2012

BoB2012: Nice Guys with a Hobby

by Frank Turk

Just because it happened, as I started writing this little fiasco, my wife asked me what I was doing, and I told her, "I'm drafting the blog."

She looked at me and said, "You mean you're riding it too close to the truck in front of you again?"

Since she put it that way, yes.



Let me confess a few things about this topic before I start the disreputable and unhelpful blogging.  The first is this: I had a hard time following the audio of the Band of Bloggers 2012 session because I only know Tim Challies' and Justin Taylor's voices, and I can't tell the rest of them apart by voice.  Collin Hansen sounds like Timmy Brister, and one of them sounded like Tullian Tchividjian to me even though I know he wasn't on the panel.  And you would think that I could pick Kevin DeYoung's voice out of the crowd, but honest to pete I just couldn't tell [UPDATED: Turns out KDY was absent that day, so I am not utterly deaf].  So the attributions in this and the next few pieces of bloggeration presented on this subject will be muddled at best because except for Tim and Justin, I can't tell who is who.

The second is this: I am obligated to say that there is not a group of less-offensive men in the whole world who actually speak out loud.  You couldn't find English-speakers who were more concerned with avoiding offense if you tried -- and that includes all English-speaking practitioners of Jainism and Catholic Trappist monks.  You can't catch these guys intentionally saying something barbed in public unless a large thumbtack and a mischieviously-placed stool was involved, and only then the most sharp-edged epithet would probably sound something like the Beaver would say.  God bless 'em for being such nice fellows.

So why blog this audio?  I mean: I simply couldn't be caught walking past the session, and I said my piece via GoAnimation the day of the event, and that should be enough, right?  There's enough evangelical fire-power involved in this panel discussion to see to it that I never publish anything ever except via blog if I somehow irk them.  And may it never be said that they somehow "overlooked" a finalist for best new author of the year because of his associations -- but it could in theory happen.  It would be wrong of me to expect they would behave that way, but it would be foolish of me to think that these guys owe me any favors when I seem to be usually at odds with them and their flavor of edification.

That is to say: blogging this audio is marginally-dangerous -- and some would say, done simply for the controversy.  It draws traffic, after all.  But here's the thing: it seems rather ill-considered that a handful of reasonably well-known bloggers would chat about blogging as such and no other blogs would have anything to say about it.  In some sense, if no one ever brought it up again, it would be too fantastically ironic.  The Band of Bloggers assessed all of Christian blogdom and no one heard it?  No one was edified? Or perhaps: no one cared?



May it never be: I cared.  Or rather, I care.  So let's begin: one of three posts on this interesting event.

The right place to start is with my dear friend and fellow blogger David Kjos who is one of the most gifted bloggers having at it.  David gave his brief assessment of the event here, and it elicited Justin Taylor's response -- to the negative, if you can believe that.  So while I didn't pay my $15 for Chic-Fil-A and the free books, I was a little intrigued to find that David would not think it was entirely satisfying and Justin would find David's comments worthy of disavowal.

The audio, it turns out, is stored at the Southern Seminary archive -- for which we are all grateful.  I gave it a listen or three, and I commend it to all of you for review and discussion.

So here's the transcript of the first few minutes:
(Starting at 00:00)
Owen Strachen: Let's just kick it off with the state of Blogging.  A few years back, I think it was in 2009 at the Gospel Coalition, at that iteration of Band of Bloggers, we wondered whether blogging would continue.  There was a lot of talk in 2009 about whether Blogging was dead -- and Tim (Challies) for example said it wasn't and it seems that he was right.  What is the state of blogging today in 2012 both in terms of the general market if you're interested in talking about that and in terms of the evangelical blog scene.
I start with Justin and go down the line. Any thoughts you have. 
Justin: I'd rather hear from Collin first.  I don't spend a lot of time thinking about that question necessarily.  I do think it's right that blogging is not dead; it will probably never die as long as people want more than 140 characters.  I think twitter is a great gateway into reading longer-formed content which blogs tend to specialize in. I don't think its going anywhere, I think Collin is more gifted at looking at the whole lay of the land.  But it's what I like to do; I'll keep doing it as long as I still enjoy it and people continue to read it.  And my blog is just more of a gateway to other things out there, so I think as long as people want content, blogging in some form will exist. 
Challies:  I just wanna ask a question - how many people here subscribe to the print version of Christianity Today? raise your hand if you would. (pause) How 'bout World Magazine? (pause) Blogs aren't going anywhere. Right?  How else are you going to know what's going on in the Christian world?  That's just the way ideas are carried.  It's the way people are finding out things now -- through the blogosphere.
(Ends about 02:00)
Now, it would be wrong, really, to criticize them for speaking briefly -- the whole session is only an hour, and everyone there was really there for T4G which started hard upon the end of this pre-conference huddle, so what I'm not going to do is pelt these guys for keeping it inside the time they had available.  Good on them, to be sure, for honoring other people's time.

But here's what strikes me about the fellows lined up here: they are all of one stripe.  Here's the list of who was there (in Alpha order):
Tim Brister
Tim Challies
Kevin DeYoung -- Absent, so noted!
Collin Hansen
Owen Strachen
Justin Taylor
Except for Timmy (who is his own brand among Southern seminarians, SBTS being the general host of T4G) and Challies (who is his own brand in the larger internet ecosystem, ranking about the same as the Sport blog for the Boston Herald, and just slightly ahead of this very blog), these guys represent "The Gospel Coalition" brand of Christianity.  You should bookmark that for future reference in this series, but to say that these fellows are anything but one slice of bologna (let's be fair: probably a decent yard of beef and not some skimpy hors d'oeuvre) in the deli of Christian writers -- let alone Christian thinkers or Christian bloggers -- is unreliable.  And in that case, it seems to me that the ice breaker here is a little much.

However, it does give us some stellar foundations by which to track the rest of this discussion.  The core connection (that they are rather monolithic) is the first foundation; the second strikes me as rather obvious: Tim and Justin see this stuff as a rather conspicuous hobby.  You know: neither one earns a living via blogging, but somehow they have both gotten into their current professions via blogging.  They have somehow made a name for themselves which carries over into something else more lucrative, and I credit them for it.  But they do this sort of thing because they like it -- which is an important motivation which we'll need to review in another installment.

The last foundation is that they don't have any illusions about the state of the medium: it is what it is, and it is here to stay.  It is exactly like moveable type amped up on Red Bull and a megadose of B-Complex vitamins, and the great leap forward in terms of the democratization of information and ideas is more like a quantum jump.  "How else," ponders Challies, "are you going to know what's happening in the Christian world?"

And that, I am afraid, is the first fantastic irony.  If you read the blogs these guys publish and link to -- and because you're a Gospel menace you also read this blog -- tell me: what's going on amongst the 1200 Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowship churches these days?  Whither the BBFI and it's 1.2 million members in this day of trouble?  How about the lowly Methodists or Anglicans?

What they must mean, of course, is, "what's going on in our corner of Christendom," which is not all it's cracked up to be.  It's a pretty narrow and fallow patch of the harvest compared, for example, to what's happening in Africa and South America -- and a patch the world thinks needs more missionaries sent to it.

So is it a fun hobby?  Sure it is.  But it's a clever little hobby that makes us into something terrifying and untrustworthy: it makes us into the center of attention.  And when we become the center of attention, we seem to forget that most people are simply not like us.

Anecdotally, as I was preparing to go to T4G a couple of weeks ago, one of the guys I worked with asked me how I was going to spend my vacation.  "With my wife," I said rather coyly as I was seeking to get my desk sufficiently cleared prior to leaving.

"Ha." he said.  "I mean 'where'?"

So I looked away from the customer car wreck in my In-Box and took off my glasses.  "We're going to a conference called 'Together for the Gospel,'" I said simply.  "It's hosted by a seminary in Louisville, and we're going to see some old friends and listen to a week of talks about whether or not we take the Gospel of Jesus Christ seriously.  Al Mohler will be there; Mark Dever; John Piper."

He looked at me blankly, thinking.  "Amy Grant?"

I put my glasses back on.  "No." I said, returning to my work. "Bob Kauflin."  I might as well have said, "Armin Shimerman."

My point being: even our heroes in that circle of influence are pretty much unknown by the world at large.  And for us to think that our blog reading (let alone: our blog writing) is somehow expressing "what's going on in the Christian world" is, at best, poor accounting.



So maybe the first stop in my tour through the 60 minutes which was Band of Bloggers is this: let's not kid ourselves about the size of the teapot in which we think we are tempesting.  It's not hardly the world -- and not hardly the whole Christian world.  It's a narrow band of blogging, and would be better off expressed that way rather than as something more influential.

That's enough for today.  Comments are open; mind your manners.








100 comments:

Neil McArdle said...

Yep, I agree. A good summarizing final thought.

candy said...

Interesting article. Just a grammar issue. Not hardly is a double negative.

Frank Turk said...

If I say 'very much' it doesn't make people itchy as a double positive. If I say 'not hardly' people forget the rest of the post.

Just sayin'.

Jared said...

Frank, I am unclear as to your feelings about the reception of Dan's book within the non-Pyro blogosphere.

Staci Eastin said...

It's early, and I'm only half-way through my first cup of coffee, but I don't remember Kevin DeYoung even being there.

Joel Knight said...

"Frank, I am unclear as to your feelings about the reception of Dan's book within the non-Pyro blogosphere."

haha. You're being sarcastic, right?

dac said...

big fish in a small pond


yet are not we all?

Robert said...

The whole thing with Dan's books is puzzling. Having read through them, I can't see how any Christian with an audience would not promote them. I've promoted them to everybody who's been around me as I read them. One would have to think that there is some clear motivation to not do so for people who seem to normally talk about books all the time.

I totally agree about the same slice of bologna...these guys are all within a group that seems to insulate itself against any form of criticism from the outside. I must admit that I was somewhat relieved when the group of men I travelled with chose The Shepherds' Conference over T4G because when I saw the lineup of speakers compared to the last time, it seemed to be headed in a certain direction. Not that there were not good messages or speakers, but it seemed that the people shifted in and out reflected a certain trajectory that T4G is headed down. It seems like they are looking to get in as many TGC type people as they can as people outside of that circle move out. Which is weird to me because the whole idea behind T4G is to bring together people with different beliefs on secondary issues who all hold the Gospel as the center. Maybe I'm off base with my observations, though.

Kim said...

Just looked at the photos I took at BoB, and there is no Kevin DeYoung on the panel.

Frank Turk said...

Jared:

I think that everyone who has read Dan's book has loved it, and has said so. He has great endorsements, and even just last month got a very flattering write-up in Themelios.

I wrote this:

[QUOTE]
There's enough evangelical fire-power involved in this panel discussion to see to it that I never publish anything ever except via blog if I somehow irk them. And may it never be said that they somehow "overlooked" a finalist for best new author of the year because of his associations -- but it could in theory happen. It would be wrong of me to expect they would behave that way, but it would be foolish of me to think that these guys owe me any favors when I seem to be usually at odds with them and their flavor of edification.
[/QUOTE]

It seems clear to me that I was saying that the danger of blogging the BoB participants is that they could simply choose to ignore me and mine for any future endeavor, or block any work we might try to publish (for example, by ignoring the submission) if I somehow put my worst foot forward or if whichever foot is presented is presented in a way perceived as offensive.

I did also say this:

[QUOTE]
I am obligated to say that there is not a group of less-offensive men in the whole world who actually speak out loud. You couldn't find English-speakers who were more concerned with avoiding offense if you tried -- and that includes all English-speaking practitioners of Jainism and Catholic Trappist monks. You can't catch these guys intentionally saying something barbed in public unless a large thumbtack and a mischieviously-placed stool was involved, and only then the most sharp-edged epithet would probably sound something like the Beaver would say. God bless 'em for being such nice fellows.
[/QUOTE]

So I think my point is very transparent.

candy said...

Bad grammar is like a splinter. Not enough for a raging infection, just enough to be irritating.

Again. Interesting article. What I really liked about Thabiti's interaction with the whole ER2 situation was that he was able to communicate his concerns in firm but gracious language. I liked that he demonstrated respect for others in the midst of his concerns. I wonder if the way he presented his concerns enabled him to be received in a different fashion. I don't really know.

I clicked over to David Kjos summary and found it interesting as well.

Frank Turk said...

Also to Jared, and whoever is following our chat:

I find it interesting that there is a perceived "Pyro Blogosphere" and a "non-Pyro Blogosphere." It's a distinction we don't make here, though I will be the first to admit that our scope of work isn't as expansive as Joel Osteen or Mark Driscoll.

How would we mend the gap if there is truly a distinction between a "Pyro Blogosphere" and a "non-Pyro Blogosphere"?

Frank Turk said...

And the first rating: 1 star!

I'm looking forward to the one-star rating army to come and tell me how shameful this post is -- I hope they can enumerate the shamefulness for me so I can improve myself in the future.

Jared said...

I find it fascinating that the dictum "It takes one (sarcastic guy) to know one (sarcastic guy)" is not functionally operational in the Pyro-blogosphere. (winky face)

Frank Turk said...

In the immortal words of the great Nina Simone, "I'm just a soul whose intentions are good! Oh Lord! Please don't let me be misunderstood!"

DJP said...

Having listened to the audio, I'd say this is a very gentle post.

Barchetta said...

I think Peter O'Toole hits the nail on the head, occasionally, in the world of bloggers in this wonderful clip from Ratatouille:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5ik3yHjP2I

donsands said...

"they do this sort of thing because they like it -- which is an important motivation which we'll need to review in another installment."-Cent

Look forward to that installment.

Thanks for the post. You have shoy past my pea-brain, but I really liked the photos, and especially, Jerry Mather as "The Beaver".

Have a Christ abiding day, -as He is always abidng in us, and we in Him,- seeking to be closer to Him through His Spirit and truth.

DJP said...

Barchetta, wouldn't you say that that clip applies mainly to one broad kind of blogger?

Aren't there (very generally put) those who see themselves as well removed from the fray and the rabble who occupy themselves in it on the one hand, and those who care passionately about the issue at dispute and themselves are immersed in that struggle, on the other? You know, like the "Band of Brothers" in WWII whose life-and-death struggle formed the subject of the book and the HBO series?

Barchetta said...

Of course DJP.

I often see, clarifying for my opinion, many bloggers simply attacking people. I also believe, being honest, that there are certainly people deserving of such attack. Rebuke is necessary in many cases, dismantling is not.

notclever said...

David Kjos said in Thirsty Theologians "Bottom line: if you’re not on the inside, you’re not qualified to speak.
The arrogance is astounding. But arrogance isn’t the only offense. Equally shameful is the attempt to silence critics with faux moral superiority and sweep the whole matter under the rug. First, we were told that insiders only were the legitimate observers and commenters on the affair. Then we heard from Collin Hansen, formerly of Christianity Today, now of The Gospel Coalition, that, just as everyone at CT knew Billy Graham and family were off-limits, no one at The Gospel Coalition was ever going to publicly criticize co-founder James MacDonald. So outsiders were not allowed to speak, and insiders were unwilling to speak. (I reserve high praise for Thabiti Anyabwile for breaking omerta.)


There's another T4G founder whose denomination is in shambles, people came to Team Pyro to say all is not well--and they received the same treatment here--and they were told they were conspiracy theorists. I like this blog, but I was dismayed at the treatment people were given for saying "there's something wrong with this picture!"

bad bob said...

Inside Baseball. This was tiresome. I'll check back in another month or so. Cheers.

Tom Chantry said...

@ Not Clever,

What you're missing is the applicability of I Timothy 5:19-20.

In many cases, sinful actions have been performed in the open before the entire church universal. They have not only not been hidden, they have been trumpeted as the epitome of godliness. They are well known and undeniable. Is TeamPyro right to "reprove them before everyone"?

In the one case you reference, the perceived and alleged (don't take umbrage; take those words at their defined value) sins have been matters which by definition have happened in private. They are matters of dispute between Christians. Well-respected outsiders with no particular horse in the race have come in and looked over all the evidence and concluded that the perceived and alleged sins have been overstated. Is TeamPyro right to "not entertain an accusation"?

Understand something: the Bible never tells us how to be 100% right in our evaluation of other men. From very early on God says to His prophets; "Look, I and only I can look into the heart, so don't try. Just do your job and let Me be the Judge of all the earth." So all that a biblical Christian can do is follow biblical processes, which sometimes will lead him to speak out against evil and sometimes will lead him to hold his peace. If you can't comprehend the distinction, one wonders if you've ever exercised authority in any context. Any parent of toddlers ought to understand the principles involved.

As for treatment of people saying "there's something wrong with this picture," that's not an accurate portrayal of what took place the week of T4G. Here's another take:

A group of people who are aggrieved over real or perceived sins has refused to accept three facts:

1. Their allegations are difficult to classify, not falling under traditional categories of biblical morality.

2. Their allegations are difficult to prove, resting largely on perceptions in private meetings. Different groups of insiders see what happened differently.

3. Their allegations have not been substantiated; in fact, outside observers have set them aside.

Yet when Frank Turk, who was not among the observers invited to investigate both sides of the question, chose to blog about a conference, this group showed up and shouted all week, "You must blog about our issue, and you must blog about it today! That is the very definition of obsession.

How were they treated? They were told to stop. When they wouldn't stop, they were told that their comments would be deleted. When they still wouldn't stop, some of us in the Commentariat ® who are less gracious than the three guys became amused. As I recall, no one was banned or even harshly rebuked.

Frank Turk said...

notClever --

Well, that's one way to say it -- even if that's not entirely accurate.

What actually happened -- to you -- is that this blog has rules about commenting here, simple points of order. It goes like this:

We will, at our discretion, delete comments that we find off-topic, derailing, un-civil, slanderous, trollish or troll-feeding, petulant, pestiferous, and/or otherwise obnoxious and non-constructive. If we warn you, stop it. After no more than three warnings, you will find yourself banned, and all your future comments will be immediately deleted.

The posts in question were about T4G in general, and your comments were abusive toward Challies and Taylor (who were not in question) and then also extremely biased against (if not actually slanderous) toward CJ Mahaney. You were warned to can it, and of course you didn't -- because you are still not canning it.

I'll reissue your flags with blogger as a spammer today for good measure, but keep this in mind: I'm not telling anyone to shut up. I'm telling you personally that intruding on conversations and then attempting to take them over for your own purposes is rude at best and frankly churlish and craven at worst.

We may or may not comment on the state of Sovereign Grace churches, but let me say this as clearly as possible: they have a system of governance. That system has taken a year to review and settle the matter -- but you aren't satisfied with that. So rather than work to fix whatever you think the problem is, you have instead decided to take up an "Occupy Blogstreet" campaign at sites not affiliated with SGM. This has to be the dumbest, least-effective strategy one can imagine, but I'll grant you: it's an easy way to become a martyr (at least in your own eyes).

Congratulations!

dac said...

was this not a T4G event? I mean, is not that the point? That T4G people get together and meet with the great unwashed masses?

And if they had invited the greater masses to participate, what would you have said? I mean, lets say Rachel Held Evans is part of the panel - what would your response be? Yet is she not a prominent blogger? Would she not have something to contribute?

It seems to me you doth protest to much as any action they would take would earn your ire.

yankeegospelgirl said...

I guess I'm a little puzzled by the tone of this post. I haven't listened to the audio yet, so maybe I'll understand better then, but... maybe I'm not sure why the sarcasm? I know the Pyros are sort of outsiders in the blogging world, but all these guys are conservative and haven't been afraid to tell it like it is when it comes to Rob Bell, T. D. Jakes, etc. (even if they do it more tactfully than y'all).

I'll admit the "Christian world" thing was a bit amusing. Still, I don't know that I would have harped on it so much. I do think these guys represent one of the last bastions of mostly CONSERVATIVE Christianity (Russell Moore's occasional sillinesses aside), and so this is rightly significant to conservative Christians.

juleslapierre.com said...

Slam-dunk, Frank.

"...let's not kid ourselves about the size of the teapot in which we think we are tempesting. It's not hardly the world -- and not hardly the whole Christian world."

At the end of the day we are the Church, kneeling on a level playing field. There is not insider/outsider. There are only those on His right and those on His left.

Bill Kinnon said...

Frank,
You really are older than dirt. I would have quoted Eric Burdon & the Animals' version of Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood.

Oh. And I appreciate your perspective on who T4G's BoB actually speak for. (Forgive the prepositional ending of that sentence, Candy. Am too tired to fix it.)

Frank Turk said...

dac --

As usually, your failure to grasp the point is remarkable.

My point is not that they did not invite enough people, or that they should have invited more: it is that they see themselves and their content, at least in some measure, as "the Christian world". Maybe they chose their words poorly -- I'd accept that as an explanation which covers the scope of my complaint here. But at its root, I think it's easy to see how these fellows see themselves and their work by what they actually say and mean.

Frank Turk said...

YGG:

I did say this:

[QUOTE]
it seems rather ill-considered that a handful of reasonably well-known bloggers would chat about blogging as such and no other blogs would have anything to say about it. In some sense, if no one ever brought it up again, it would be too fantastically ironic. The Band of Bloggers assessed all of Christian blogdom and no one heard it? No one was edified? Or perhaps: no one cared?

May it never be: I cared. Or rather, I care.
[/QUOTE]

That seems like a totally-adequate explanation. Public people said something in public, and someone is publicly responding.

Thanks for asking.

Frank Turk said...

Kinnon -- I was going to quote Francis of Assissi saying that, but I didn't want him to be misunderstood, either. (With words if necessary)

Jules LaPierre said...

Frank:

You do know that some folks will see this as "sour grapes" on your part.

Matt Gumm said...

Frank: I hate you because you're employed.

BTW, where's my t-shirt?

Frank Turk said...

It's at my house.

Frank Turk said...

Jules:

Fortunately for me, I have a day job with which I am usually very pleased. Like Justin, I see this as a hobby, not an industry.

Jules LaPierre said...

Ditto to all of the above :)

Matt Gumm said...

P. S. I almost spit out my coffee at "Armin Shimmerman."

Staci Eastin said...

Coffee finished, jumping back in with a question.

And bear in mind, I'm just asking, because it might be there and I've missed it.

There is a difference in saying "blogs aren't going anywhere, because how else are you going to find out what's happening in the Christian world," and saying "our blogs represent the whole of Christian blogdom."

Because the context of the discussion was whether or not the outcry that blogging in general was dead was accurate.

Frank Turk said...

It strikes exactly the right tone. I'll bet Mr. Kauflin has never been top-bill at a Star Trek Conference -- and there, they'd be singing in Klingon.

dac said...

Blogger would be so much better with emoticons


(still looking for that pot:kettle thingy)

Frank Turk said...

dac:

I also think it's transparently-easy to see how I see myself and my work by what I actually say and mean. You just have to read what I say, and I'll be glad when you start doing it.

OFelixCulpa said...

Very good point. I look forward to the next two posts. I'm sure all these guys are right now seething over their inability to delete you from the internet!

Not to defend them, but I have found that the kind of...arrogance?...you critique here is very often the norm among conservative Evangelicals. It seems that virtually no disagreement--however respectful, is allowed. The BoB folks are legendary in their readiness to delete differing ideas, but are they really much worse than average?

Matt Gumm said...

There's times when I actually feel bad for people who don't know you offline, because without that, it's really hard to appreciate your tonality.

Frank Turk said...

Staci --

It's a fair and pointed critique. It's possible they mean, "all the Christian bloggers, all the young dudes, Carry the news." (no offense to you or the non-dudes carrying the news)

I wonder how we would substantiate that? Maybe by the content of their blogs? How much wider does that make the scope of their view?

Danny said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bethel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bryce said...

I just appreciate that reformed celebrities (that I do like) aren't above being tagged off base. It's important for the real unity of the church to be able to call out Christian leaders. Kudos.

Jay Beerley said...

I think one of the main things that needs to be done in these (T4G, well all venues I guess) types of venues is to call a spade a spade. Isn't that what you're getting at? Just say, "Hey, we know we represent ________. We get along. We're going to chat a little about what people think about us, maybe respond to them some, maybe not. But we're just representing US, not them."
Would the only real gospel diversity at T4G (and therefore amongst these bloggers) be church polity, paedo/credal baptism, and continuationist/cessationists? (assuming I'm allowed to paint with such broad strokes?)

yankeegospelgirl said...

Almost done... did one of those guys tell Jefferson Bethke to "keep making great art?" ROFLOL.

THMoller said...

Calvary Chapel? Didn't Chuck Smith Sr. die with Lonnie Frisbee?

Okay, j/k, but your point is well taken from this corner.

I recently came from a "missional" church with certain excesses one of which your post names. In "bringing the church to the people", this church acted like what they were doing was completely unheard of in southern California. I tried to explain to them their "missional" model is exactly the same model that Pastor Chuck employed in the early 70's which spawned a national movement called the Jesus Movement. We just had a "reformed" twist on the package. It was as if I spoke to the wind.

I didn't want to discourage the earnest congregants in spreading the gospel, but at the same time I wanted this church to have a wider more sober view of their own heritage.

I thank God for Chuck Smith and his labor for the gospel. I just wish Calvary's anti-Calvinism would be attenuated a bit.

DJP said...

YGG - it was the same guy who said "Man, Caedmon's Call REALLY ROCKS THE HOUSE!!!"

DJP said...

Okay, I completely made that one up.

Frank Turk said...

Felix --

That is a great anonymous internet handle, unless your mam actually named you O. Felix Culpa. In that case, Mrs. Culpa is a shining star in my book.

That said, somebody on the internet recently had a bit to say about how a blog-host ought to own the comments made on his/her blog, especially when they are, for example, profane or slanderous. I come from the school that says almost nothing should be deleted for the sake of the record -- except when the offense is obvious, intentional, and unredeemable (for example, an anonymous troll wants to hi-jack the comment thread for his own personal pet peeve; a drive-by commenter issues a vulgarity or insult with no hope for his repentance) -- but the point is well-made: how we allow the readers of our blogs to express themselves reflects on what we are really setting forth in the world.

All editorial decisions on the internet are not good ones, but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be any intervention when anonymous people get out of hand.

Sir Brass said...

I wonder if we're going to see any "Rules of Acquisition" jokes now.

I didn't even need to click on the wiki link to know who Armin Shimmerman is.


Yes, I'm a recovering Trekkie. It's a long process and recovering Trekkie backsliders like James White and Frank Turk (well, unrepentant Trekkie for him more like) don't help :P.

P.S. Where is the "Nail meet jackhammer" award for Chantry for slamming the point home in a spectacular (in a good way) fashion... yet again :).

Tom Chantry said...

Jay,

Excellent point. It points out, by the way, the distinction between T4G and TGC. The Four Guys represent what they represent - nothing more. The Gooey Center ® wants to be more, and so they have to admonish anyone in their perceived kingdom who do not tow the line.

It is like what Carl Trueman said here:

I was reassured by what I saw that T4G is in the game of putting on a good conference every two years and not in becoming a movement or setting the agenda for any church or churches.

T4G throws a conference. But Frank's point isn't about T4G so much as it is about the Gooey Center bloggers who make up BoB - they want to be the representatives of all of gospel-centered evangelicaldom, which is just silly. Sometimes you have to just say, "Hey, we aren't talking about that here," and leave it at that.

A number of years back in a Q&A session at a Banner of Truth conference, someone asked a rather combative question about baptism. Now Banner has from its inception sought to re-establish fellowship among Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists of a Puritan stripe, and so they eschew all confrontation on baptism and ecclesiology at their events. How did they handle this question?

Sinclair Ferguson rose and calmly said, "We've agreed not to enter into dispute about that subject at this conference, and I'm sure everyone present will be willing to abide by that agreement." Not, "That doctrine doesn't matter." Not, "You shouldn't talk about that." Not even, "I would never talk about that." Simply, "That's not what this particular conference is about."

Solameanie said...

May I say that I love the quilting party pix at the end of this post? Brings back warm, fuzzy memories of my Southern heritage. And I love how it fits the content of the post if you stop and think about it a while. Sometimes we bloggers are quite a bit like old hens gathered in a circle clucking our tongues (or keyboards).

Frank Turk said...

Sola:

Bingo.

ethanasmith said...

I just listened to the clip you mention, Frank, and I think you completely missed the point of what Challies said. He wasn't saying their specific blogs encompass the entire Christian world. He was simply saying blogs are the way information is carried throughout the Christian world.

Frank Turk said...

Ethan --

It's a fair and pointed critique. It's possible they mean, "all the Christian bloggers, all the young dudes, Carry the news." (no offense to the non-dudes carrying the news)

I wonder how we would substantiate that? Maybe by the content of their blogs? How much wider does that make the scope of their view?

Frank Turk said...

The Rules of Acquisition

BrettR said...

When I listened to the audio, I did not get the impression that they were saying that they are the go to blogs for all that is christian/suedo-christian news o' the day/moment/second. I heard it as them saying that if someone does want to know about what is happening in say the churches in the Pacific Northwest, they will need to go to "a" blog rather than through "their" blog(s).

Having said all that, your point is true and well stated. In a certain sense them saying that they are hobbiests is faux-humility. The benefits for what they do (and being very good at what they do in the niche they reach) is more than free books to review before the peasants can use them as a coffee mug coasters. They have a TON to gain by being a link generator. Some of the other panelist would not be on stage with Challies and Taylor with out their internet nudgings towards them.

Blogs will always hit a relatively small demographic even with the big hitters in the wide bog world. No one is going to get arrested yelling "Drudge" in a crowded movie theater. Yelling "Pyro" may not be safe though. So you have that going for ya.

ethanasmith said...

Frank,

That's fair. I'm sure their sample includes very few Methodists, Anglicans, etc.

A word on the Methodists, though, since I know quite a few—they are taking to blogs in the same way we Reformed-types are. So maybe the sample isn't that far off.

Plus, we should consider Christians on the left, such as Tony Jones and the so-called Outlaw Pastors. Their influence is mainly through blogs as well.

CCinTn said...

Are Ferengis fundamentalists?

Fred Butler said...

I'm kind of glad to see I wasn't the only one who knew who Armin Shimerman was without clicking the link.

Staci Eastin said...

First of all, I had to google "all the young dudes, carry the news." It's one of those songs I've heard hundreds of times without knowing the words.

Franks said: I wonder how we would substantiate that? Maybe by the content of their blogs?

I'm not sure what you're getting at here. Are you just musing aloud, or do you think their blogs indicate that they have overestimated their influence?

I still think Tim was just throwing out print magazines everyone had heard of. Christian Standard Magazine might have been a better parallel, but only the 3 out of 300+ in the room who grew up in the independent Christian Churches would have known what he was talking about (and I doubt Tim would be familiar with that one, anyway).

These guys all live their everyday lives pretty anonymously. I don't think Justin Taylor calls Dominos and has the order-taker say "Wait, is this THE Justin Taylor?" Owen even mentioned that his wife didn't read any of their blogs, so they know how small the teapot is.

Barbara said...

ethanasmith,

Plus, we should consider Christians on the left, such as Tony Jones and the so-called Outlaw Pastors. Their influence is mainly through blogs as well.

Those who deny the atonement aren't counted among Christians who, by definition, look to that atonement for their very salvation.

Marla said...

"Armin Shimerman" ? How about Julian Glover? ;D Very good points Frank. Ask the average guy on the street and they can't even name their own congressman, let alone someone like Mark Dever or John Piper or even (gasp) John MacArthur.

Marla said...

....But more people seem to know who that 'cussing pastor' is.... *sigh*

Frankly, after the ER2 debacle, I'm glad more people *don't* know who those guys (the elephanteers) are.

Frank Turk said...

Staci -

I'd be careful to remember that being a non-famous rockstar is also now the big thing. Everyone now has an anecdote regarding how they're not famous at home, by golly -- because that's the current trope.

Let's step back a second and think about what happens in this first 2 minutes (first 2 minutes!) of audio: the question is posed: is blogging dead? Or rather, what's the state of blogging?

Points to JT for saying that Collin is the guy who prolly has the most facts and figures about this -- but can we honestly say that when they say "blogosphere," they mean "blogs we haven't linked to"?

I'm not sure that's helpful.

Logan Paschke said...

Maybe it's just me, but there must be some sort of code to these events if you're "in the club" that you can't speak about controversial issues.

Or if you do, you just play nice so that no one gets upset.

I'll take a listen, but this stuff (and the fact that I'm a no-name rare blogger) is why people who express a contrary statement get hammered and are shunned (is defrocked a better word?).

Example. I wrote an extensive well-researched article on Ergun Caner. Now, let's say at the same time I was a pastor who was scheduled to preach at Liberty University Chapel.

Would I be turned away like Voddie Bauchaum was at James Macdonald's church. Of course I would be, there is an inability to take criticism even if I'm not criticizing the institution but just someone associated with the institution. Or maybe I am criticizing the institution's handling of everything, but I'm not throwing them out.

All or nothing mindset?

As an aside: Did anyone see a single Voddie Baucham book at the lifeway bookstore? I wanted to buy his newest book but couldn't find any of his books for the life of me.

Was it because of the controversy between him and James Macdonald?

The Christian Rap/Hip-Hop Circle suffers from the same mentality sometimes in that they think they are bigger than they are.

Interesting thing is that if you go back a decade with both movements, it's all grinding with no foundation in place.

You didn't have Crossway, you didn't have Reach Records. You didn't have TGC or T4G and you didn't have Rapzilla, Da South, or Holy Culture. There were very few platforms for writers/artists/theologians to publish their albums/books.

If you want to talk about impact-wise, I honestly believe that the most well-known christian rappers are making far bigger waves in a far bigger teacup than the most well-known bloggers are.

/rant over

Frank Turk said...

As someone who has taken a major lesson from our brothers rapping for Jesus, and has never offered an apology for past criticisms which were unfounded:

1. Logan is Right.

2. I formally renounce my (aborted) series "Rap and Bad Art" at my original home blog as besides the point when it comes to our friends and good brothers who have taken the Gospel to the Rap culture in a non-ironic, not-embarassing and edifying way. I apologize for my preconceptions about the genre and its use, and I ask them to forgive me for judging them wrongly.

DJP said...

I'm kind of glad to see I wasn't the only one who knew who Armin Shimerman was without clicking the link.

Right.

Principle Snyder.

Duh!

Staci Eastin said...

Everyone now has an anecdote regarding how they're not famous at home, by golly -- because that's the current trope.

Such as: She looked at me and said, "You mean you're riding it too close to the truck in front of you again?"

:)

Robert said...

Something from a while back just popped into my mind that I think people need to associate with what is being said by these guys. Last year sometime, there was a lot of reaction to Rob Bell promoting "Love Wins". Well, there was an interview where one of the TGC guys said that once Kevin DeYoung and himself had commented, that should have been enough to take care of things and that everybody else was just piling on. So it isn't like what Frank is saying here has no merit at all...just connect the dots from the comments from some of the guys from TGC and you can see a pattern.

Frank Turk said...

Staci:

Exactly. I am actually a trend-setter on this trope, dating back to this post. I think there is one earlier than that, but it'll do.

Aaron Snell said...

Frank:

>>It's a fair and pointed critique. It's possible they mean, "all the Christian bloggers, all the young dudes, Carry the news." (no offense to the non-dudes carrying the news)

>>I wonder how we would substantiate that? Maybe by the content of their blogs? How much wider does that make the scope of their view?

So what you're asking for here - and what we actually need before we can proceed with an evaluation anyways - is a context in which to interpret their words. Because there's the (you could say) somewhat more charitable interpretation offered by Staci and Ethan, and there's the one offered in your post.

I suppose one context would be the general content of their blogs. In other words, do they write like you've characterized them as thinking here? This is kind of hard to do, though, it seems to me.

I would propose, on the other hand, considering primarily the context given by the (albeit brief) statements themselves. In other words, let's look again carefully at the statements themselves, and note what they do - and don't - say:

Challies: "I just wanna ask a question - how many people here subscribe to the print version of Christianity Today? raise your hand if you would. (pause) How 'bout World Magazine? (pause) Blogs aren't going anywhere. Right? How else are you going to know what's going on in the Christian world? That's just the way ideas are carried. It's the way people are finding out things now -- through the blogosphere."

This, taken in context in response to a general question about blogging qua blogging, seems to be about, well, blogs in general. Notice he didn't say, "How else are you going to know what's going on in the Christian world is you don't read my blog/our blogs?" He seems to be answering a general question about blogging by pointing to a general trend in the broadly Christian world (reflective of the larger cultural trend) of getting your news via the new media.

Frank, do you see anywhere in his words, or in the immediate context of the question asked, where Challies says that his own blogging, or the blogging of the pannel, is "somehow expressing 'what's going on in the Christian world'" in the notably influential way you're suggesting? I don't, but I could be missing something.

Normally, I'm on board with you and particularly enjoy the way you write, but I think, especially in light of your admission that the alternate take is a "fair and pointed critique", that to say that "What they must mean, of course, is, 'what's going on in our corner of Christendom'" is a bit overstated. [emphasis added]

HSAT, I think the foundations for looking at this discussion you pointed out are both spot on and important, and I'm glad you framed the review with them. I just hope we don't get too sidetracked in a debate about this other point so that we loose sight of them.

DJP said...

Two words:

Comedy
Gold

DJP said...

I referred of course to Frank's wife's remarks in the above-linked post.

threegirldad said...

2. I formally renounce my (aborted) series "Rap and Bad Art" at my original home blog as besides the point when it comes to our friends and good brothers who have taken the Gospel to the Rap culture in a non-ironic, not-embarassing and edifying way. I apologize for my preconceptions about the genre and its use, and I ask them to forgive me for judging them wrongly.

I've wondered about that series ever since it was published. The statement above is a major reason why I esteem Frank Turk.

Aaron Snell said...

Whoops.

Notice he didn't say, "How else are you going to know what's going on in the Christian world is you don't read my blog/our blogs?"

should have been:

Notice he didn't say, "How else are you going to know what's going on in the Christian world if you don't read my blog/our blogs?"

Frank Turk said...

Aaron:

I did say (twice) that it's a fair and pointed critique. But it's fair only because it does for me what you say I haven't done for them.

I could have said this:

[QUOTE]
it would be wrong, really, to criticize them for speaking briefly -- the whole session is only an hour, and everyone there was really there for T4G which started hard upon the end of this pre-conference huddle, so what I'm not going to do is pelt these guys for keeping it inside the time they had available. Good on them, to be sure, for honoring other people's time.
[/QUOTE]

In fact, I did.

And I could have said this:

[QUOTE]
You can't catch these guys intentionally saying something barbed in public unless a large thumbtack and a mischieviously-placed stool was involved, and only then the most sharp-edged epithet would probably sound something like the Beaver would say. God bless 'em for being such nice fellows.
[/QUOTE]

Which, again, I did.

And I might have said this:

[QUOTE]
[Blogging] is exactly like moveable type amped up on Red Bull and a megadose of B-Complex vitamins, and the great leap forward in terms of the democratization of information and ideas is more like a quantum jump. "How else," ponders Challies, "are you going to know what's happening in the Christian world?"
[/QUOTE]

And again: I did. I think they have all the benefit of the doubt necessary to weigh what I am critiquing here against what they intended. And I'll be honest: I don't think they intend to say, "my, how lovely we are." May it never be the case that they would say that - it would look funny (to say the least) or unhelpful.

But I think it's what they didn't intend to say that shows up anyway that, at the end of the day, might be worth a look. And because this is a fair and pointed criticism of my point, I have (all day now) taken it under advisement. I have considered it a couple of ways.

Did they intend to say, "well, our blogs of course and whatever else there might be -- can't think of anything else tho' ..."? Surely not. But Challies is not talking about blogs in general (as you say): he's talking about the blogs which have replaced CT and World magazine. Surely that's not Frank Viola's blog, is it?

Aaron Snell said...

Thanks, Frank, that's a helpful clarification.

I guess your point, then, would have as much to do with the representation on the pannel (and its implicit statement about the Christian blogosphere) as it does with what was actually said in that opening salvo(?)

Dorian said...

I used to read a ton of blogs. It was exhausting. But I didn't realize it. It was exhausting in the way that being constantly linked to the world by a smart phone or other fancy iThing. You never realize how exhausting it is until it dies one day and you spend a day without it and suddenly you notice things are really peaceful. The "how else would we keep in touch with what is happening in the christian world" school of thought is exhausting in the same way. There was a day before smartphones and the internet when I didn't feel a constant need to be so caught up with "what's happening." I found out everything from reading the paper. Or maybe someone would call me and if I was home I would answer it, and if I was not, I missed it and went on with my life. Life before blogs was kind of like that. Today all this bloggy connectivity with "the christian world" is distracting me from the christian world which I actually do inhabit: My church family, and my neighborhood, and in varying degrees the churches in my community. How much do I really need to know about what the latest who's who in the christian world said about some other who's who, or who is or isn't invited to some kind of animal room? Someone from my congregation is in the hospital. I appreciated this post a lot.

Barbara said...

@Dorian --

AMEN.

doug said...

"Big fish in a small pond" indeed. It was very good for my soul (which I found was too often full of envy) when 1)a brother from Egypt told me that not only had his family (Christians who still live in Egypt) never heard of John Piper, but they would probably refuse to read a book of his simply because he is American and they are suspicious of any Christian teaching that emerges from the States; and 2) I was asking another pastor if he had read Piper's latest book and he asked "Don Piper"? (Don authored the Christian Classic "90 Minutes in Heaven"). Both of these experiences revealed to me that, as prominent as John Piper's voice is in my corner of Christianity, it is a very small corner. Since then, I have discovered that most Christians have never heard of Piper, Dever, Mahaney, or virtually anyone else I namedrop (And, thus, are genuinely not impressed with my ability to quote them). Learning that was a great lesson for me and has done much to curb my tendency to frequently daydream "if only."

Sir Brass said...

doug, the reason they don't trust much of what comes from America is probably because of one of the things which John Piper personally loathes:

The Prosperity Gospel.

And one of its consequences is encouraging distrust from other brothers and sisters in Christ who, in attempting to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, are wary of what comes from America because so much of what we've exported theology-wise has been so much garbage.

Instead of being a blessing to our brothers and sisters across the world, we're wisely held in skepticism because we have failed to keep our houses in order.

Who can blame them. We HAVE exported so much trash.

Chris Nelson said...

It is wise to be skeptical of Piper, he has run interference for at least two false teachers recently.

Andrew Lindsey said...

so... should I feel bad that I love the Pyros bloggers and the BoB panelists equally (though turn to each for slightly different reasons)?

Frank Turk said...

I'm curious:

Who is reading this post and thinking, "TeamPyro has written off the men on the BoB Panel and worthless."

Because that sentiment can't be found here, or in any part of the three parts on this panel which I am going to post. Being concerned about somethings said or the way they have been said doesn't mean anything except, "wow -- that wasn't clever."

I see these posts as the grain of salt that panel ought to be taken with -- not a casting of Challies, Taylor, et al. into the outer darkness.

Andrew Lindsey said...

centuri0n: great!

Alex Jordan said...

... I formally renounce my (aborted) series "Rap and Bad Art" at my original home blog as besides the point when it comes to our friends and good brothers who have taken the Gospel to the Rap culture in a non-ironic, not-embarassing and edifying way. I apologize for my preconceptions about the genre and its use, and I ask them to forgive me for judging them wrongly.

Hi Frank,

I know this will be a bit off topic, but you're the one who made the above statement in the comments for this post. So my question is-- why, or what are you disowning with the above statement? I took a peak at some of the articles you mentioned and I thought you were onto something. There is such a thing as bad art and music, right? So are you saying you misjudged the genre of Christian rap/hip hop and that by virtue of its noble aspirations is must be good art? Or are you saying it could be bad or good, depending on other factors?

Frank Turk said...

Alex:

A fair question.

My reasoning essentially was going to take the shape that Rap, like Porn, is essentially bad art and can never be redeemed. The roots of rap are not as music but as deconstructive political speech, and I was going to leverage that to say that Rap as an art form is therefore not legit.

The longer I stewed on that, the more sense it made to me -- until I got involved in the best of the Theological rapping scene. That they leveraged the counter-cultural approach of Rap to bring in the counter-cultural force of the Gospel really undid my objections in a big way, and I never got around to retracting or revising my statements. I should do that eventually as I have done it here only briefly.

I was wrong. It needs to be said.

trogdor said...

1) Snyder was a better principal than Flutie, but in the end both got all eated up.

2) It's tough not to cheer for the Ferengi. Even though they (like pretty much all Trek races) devolved into a one-note caricature, at least they were capitalists (like the Kirk-era Federation), standing in stark contrast to the communist TNG-era Federation.

3) If I can go off-topic, the point is well-taken about how small a corner of Christendom the Western Reformed-ish world is. And there's benefit to remembering where you stand. I've learned/written far too much about Rob Bell because I was rooting out a Nooma-infestation in a ministry I was working with, but I don't think I've written two words about Osteen or Copeland or whoever, because they're not the ones I deal with. Similarly, it's not problematic if Challies doesn't have a strong opinion about Methodist church planting efforts on Madagascar. Knowing your focus and sticking to it is perfectly fine.

And that's one reason I was so disappointed in this event, and the whole ER2 fiasco. The battle came to our small corner of the war theater, and our big guns fell deafeningly silent. Worse, some of the biggest shots were carefully nuanced to ensure that they did at least equal damage to the good guys; when they may have still had the power to swing the battle, those who didn't punt entirely were so ineffective that the other side used those very shots to claim victory.

And Kjos is exactly right: this was just plain old 'friendly fire'. We were abandoned during the fight, and now they're shooting at the wounded in the aftermath. Disgusting.

Tom Chantry said...

he battle came to our small corner of the war theater, and our big guns fell deafeningly silent. Worse, some of the biggest shots were carefully nuanced to ensure that they did at least equal damage to the good guys; when they may have still had the power to swing the battle, those who didn't punt entirely were so ineffective that the other side used those very shots to claim victory.

It's a great comment, Trog, so don't take this the wrong way, but I loved the imagery here. Really drew the picture of the modern battlefield, with heavy artillery raging - and then a skinny little guy in the middle of it who's dwarfed by his shoulder-pads and helmets drop-kicking a football...

Merrilee Stevenson said...

I meant to say this the other day and I forgot, but still think it's worth saying: Tara Turk is awesome! Frank, you probably have reached the limit on the number of blogs one person should be allowed to have. I've nearly reached the limit on the number I will read, but I would definitely find the time to read hers, should she follow your advice. It just needed to be said.

Frank Turk said...

Merrilee --

Seriously now, my wife should blog one paragraph every day for a month, loading them into her blogger account as drafts. Then, at the end of 30 days, she should schedule them to appear one a day every week-day, which would give her a 6-week buffer.

Then she should let it rip and keep composing one paragraph a day only on weekdays. She would be the most famous Mom Blogger on Earth inside the end of the original buffer. After that, I'd retire to being her pool boy.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

I love this plan, Frank. And she could combine with a coupla other awesome Moms so in case a kid gets sick or a husband decides to rebuild the kitchen it doesn't all come to a standstill. Not that she couldn't handle it, but I happen to know that awesome moms automatically know they have better things to do than blog...like ministry...so it usually just doesn't happen. But I'd love to read her no-nonsense. Heres hoping you get to be her pool boy. :o )

Tom Chantry said...

mrsgadfly&co.blogspot.com

Frank Turk said...

The problem is that the Mrs. Gadfly mascot would be way too hot for the masses to accept. The original representation of her was so excellent it actually drew calls for my removal from the blog.

Here's the safe-for-weaker-brother version of her avatar.

Aaron Snell said...

I dunno, those head-tentacles might cause someone to stumble.