Today, I read this insightful article from Christianity Today. It discusses issues of authority and credentials that arise in relation to the internet age of bloggers. There are plenty of blogs out there now days — the writers of which may hold no formal credentials at all, such as lacking education, ordination, etc. However, despite a lack of proper authority, many of these bloggers go on to receive successful book deals, conference speaking engagements, and travel to give sermons at various megachurches. Specifically, this article highlighted how many of these popular bloggers are women.
This article reminded me that I must make a vital comment about my own blog: I am not a credible authority. I don’t divulge much personal information here, but I will inform all of you that I am a student working toward my degrees, with the hopes of eventually receiving a doctorate in theology. These blogs come from reflections upon my studies, upon independent studies conducted in my free time, or reflections upon my experience with the church. Nonetheless, everything I say should be taken with “a grain of salt” because I do not have the proper credentials to be authoritative on these issues (other than taking about my own experience in the church because that is testimony on my own feelings).
This blog is primarily conducted for myself. I enjoy the practice of organizing my thoughts, and I want to have a place to keep of these musings so I can perhaps use them later on. I also hope that in some way these blog posts will stimulate your own thinking.
However, if you should find anything I say appealing, I highly encourage you to research the matter further on your. I must be fact-checked — especially considering that I have little formal authority. This means I also bear an obligation to provide my sources to all of you.
With that being said, I would like to voice my opinion about the Christian blogosphere. First, I am not a fan of giving too much authority to mere bloggers. I, for example, should not be offered a book deal merely because I write this blog. If what I write receives some peer review of other form of professional examination, that is a different matter. But a book deal given by a company that wants to capitalize on an internet blogger’s popularity could be dangerous — especially because many of these popular level bloggers lack theological credentials and eduction.
Secondly, many of these bloggers are women. My guess is that one of the reasons for this phenomena is how the church continues to marginalize the voices of women. Many denominations and churches still prohibit women from having positions of authority, and some seminaries — such as Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas — won’t even allow women to take classes about pastoral ministry.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that given the marginalization of women within the Christian church, women have resorted to expressing themselves through one of the most readily available platforms: blogs. Notice also that many of these female, spiritual blogs are written from an evangelical perspective. My hunch is that the reason for this can be explained by noting that evangelicals do not show enough respect or pay enough attention to the thoughts and concerns of women. Just look at the portion on evangelicalism in this survey conducted by Barna.
Thus, what we ought to do is work towards creating a Christian community that encourages the theological education, activity, and authority of women. We must stop discriminating against women holding leadership positions in our churches based on arbitrary and ad hoc reasoning.
In concluding considerations, I see the church as being significantly hurt by influence from pastors with little education or improper education. Giving too large of a platform to bloggers — in my opinion — is dangerous. So don’t idolize this blog! My blog posts are not doctrine; they are conversation pieces.
I’ll end with a quote:
In his essay Sinsick, Stanley Hauerwas famously explores the notion of authority using a medical analogy. If a medical student told his advisor, “I’m not into anatomy this year, I’m into relating” and asked to skip anatomy class to focus on people, the medical school would reply, “Who in the hell do you think you are, kid? … You’re going to take anatomy. If you don’t like it, that’s tough.” Hauerwas delivers his crucial point by saying: “Now what that shows is that people believe incompetent physicians can hurt them. Therefore people expect medical schools to hold their students responsible for the kind of training that is necessary to be competent physicians. On the other hand, few people believe an incompetent minister can damage their salvation.”
The church has said for millennia that bad teaching is more deadly than bad surgery. Now we have an influx of teachers who become so by the stroke of a key. The need for formal structures of training, hierarchy, and accountability in medical schools and medical boards is obvious because we don’t want our doctors to simply be popular or relatable; we want them to practice medicine correctly and truthfully, participate in a medical tradition broader than themselves, and serve under the authority and oversight of others. We need to be as discerning in whom we trust with care of souls as we are with care of our bodies.