Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Retrospective


As you know if you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time (do people still read it?), I do not update it often. There are about three reasons for this:

1) I’m lazy, and Netflix always seems like a better idea.
2) I’m a graduate student, and study always is a better idea.
3) I’m not sure what the point of it is anymore.

I want to talk about 3.

Actually, 2 and 3 are related: grad school has changed me in predictable ways. My thought is more nuanced, and therefore often less communicable. My writing (and my speech), despite my attempts to avoid it, is jargon-laden. I’m also less sure of my conclusions, or even of the habit of drawing conclusions, than I was when I started this blog. Many of my opinions are cloudier than they were. I’ve changed my mind about many things. And perhaps most significantly, I place much less importance on many of the things this blog was created to talk about than I once did.

When I started it, I thought apologetics was an important thing for lay Christians to know about. I thought that the world really did need another apologetics blog written by a college student who had read some Bill Craig. I didn’t have too many original thoughts about apologetics, but I justified this by saying that the people reading my blog—my community—wouldn’t know about the things I was reading, so it was good and beneficial for me to share it with them. I also had several friends who were nontheists who were likely to read the blog (maybe they still do), and I thought it would be good for them to be exposed to reasons for Christian belief and an articulation of the Christian worldview that was, well, not crazy. Lastly, I thought I was capable of approaching these things, and especially disagreements I encountered along the way, with a measure of grace that was uncommon among other apologetics bloggers. I think I was right about this (though not always).

I also thought I knew a great deal more than I did. I knew more than everyone around me, or knew how to find what seemed to me credible responses to their opinions, and I could usually dominate a conversation if I wanted to. In particular, I trusted my own intuitions more than anyone else’s, and I was sure that if I sat and thought about it for long enough, there wasn’t a question I couldn’t reasonably answer. In some ways, this attitude has stuck with me. Indeed, I would argue that something like it is necessary for the philosopher (it may be akin to what Socrates had in mind with “wonder”), but now it’s been baptized, thankfully, by the Holy Spirit and a healthy dose of reality. One of my professors, now a friend, once told me I was a “big fish in a small pond.” It was the sort of qualified compliment she excelled at, and I characteristically brushed off the part I didn’t like to focus on the part I did. But of course she was right. One of the (maybe the) most valuable aspects of graduate school is that you get confronted regularly with how dumb you are. Or at least with how many people there are who are smarter, more informed, more disciplined, more accomplished. If it goes well, this serves to motivate you to improve, but along the way it humbles you (or it should). But when I started this blog, I didn’t have the experience of all those relationships, all those patient professors, all those brilliant colleagues. I was a walking irony: trying to correct ignorance, while remaining ignorant of my own. *

And if I am to be completely honest, I was in love with my own thoughts. I enjoyed writing them, reading back through them, the thought of other people reading them and learning, or being challenged, or getting offended. I enjoyed responding to counterarguments. I was skilled at this, and it was pleasurable to display that skill. I now think this is sinful. Don’t misunderstand: I am still not free of this tendency. But I do at least recognize it, and want to avoid it. Usually this means not writing.

What to say about all this? Does this blog have a usefulness anymore? As I look back through my posts, and even my list of ideas for future posts, I find some things that I disagree with, some that are outright false or misleading, and many that I no longer think are all that important. I haven’t changed any of the posts I’ve written to reflect my current views (which might require deleting some altogether), because I think it’s important to preserve my thought history, to be honest about where I was then.

And there are still a few things I like about the blog. The tagline, for example. I am still guided by the impulse to find out what it means to love God with my mind. One development is that I now know it must be balanced by loving him with my heart and soul. (I “knew” this before, of course, but now I know it.) I also still rather like my more personal posts, ones that grew out of relationships or experiences or conversations with people I know and love. Those reflect more of who I am becoming, and of what I actually know of God experientially, versus what I only think about him, speculatively. The blog also gives me an outlet for writing that isn’t strictly academic, and this is invaluable. It’s hard to describe to those who aren’t in it, but graduate school instils in you an attitude of constant criticism, overly precise distinctions, and unrealistic expectations. In short, it can, if you let it, effectively ruin normal conversation with real people.

So I think I will continue the blog, though I am not sure what it will look like. I still don’t want it to become me just musing on things that are strictly personal. I want it to be useful somehow to the average layperson, or to the academic who wants to read something real. But so far, I think the posts that have accomplished this best have also occurred when I was willing to be more affective than rational, or perhaps when I have succeeded in combining these without violence.

I will keep trying for that. I will keep asking how to love God with my mind, how to submit this discipline that often seems so godless to him. But I will try to do this without speaking on things I know nothing about, and I will try to limit my topics to those that are likely to create closeness between you and me, between our heads and our hearts.

I love you, and I hope you keep reading.



* This is partially the fault of apologetics itself, or at least of the way it is normally practiced. Learning for the sake of some pragmatic end (such as defense or evangelism or teaching or what have you) has a sort of concealing effect—its very structure isolates you from your own ignorance. If I ever get around to writing the book I’ve been planning on apologetics, one of the central theses will be how its usual practice lends itself to this sort of effect. But that is a topic for another time.

1 comment:

  1. I find your posts thought-provoking. Unfortunately, I rarely take time to read long blog posts in full. Keep writing. More of us need to learn to love God with our minds.

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