The Christian blogosphere is a weird, wonderful, and sometimes baffling world. Most of the time, it seems like a bunch of bloggers writing for a bunch of other bloggers. Other times there’s real and decent theological conversation happening.
There’s a lot of questionable stuff out there, but there’s also a lot of good. I’m not going to tell you which is which (you’re discerning, right?), but I will share these few things with you from Paul Wilkinson that I think every Christian should know about the blogosphere:
If a person is simply starting out from scratch and wants to read what Christians are writing online, they may or may not notice these things right away. First they’re going to find the Christian blogosphere, like Christian publishing, is mostly dominated by voices from the Reformed tradition. The second thing they might discover is some mostly conservative fringe groups occupy a disproportionate amount of bandwidth online. The third thing they might observe is that the Christian blogosphere as we tend to experience it is dominated by American voices.
From Paul’s post titled The Making of the Wednesday Link List: Part 2
Let’s look at each of the 3 things he pointed out.
1. The Christian blogosphere is mostly dominated by voices from the Reformed tradition
Church Relevance has mentioned this as well in the footnotes to their popular top 200 ministry blog list. In the FAQ’s section, one of the questions is why are so many of the top blogs [on the list] Reformed theology? Their answer is:
We aren’t sure exactly but a few ideas are:
- Reformed theology has grown increasingly popular in recent years.
- As the ministry blogosphere grew, Reformed bloggers tended to network, collaborate, and help each other more than other church subcultures.
- Many top Reformed bloggers write on larger websites like The Gospel Coalition, which favorably affects their metrics.
- Reformed bloggers may write more often about the gospel and the Great Commission than other theological niches, which consequently may give them a higher percentage of blogs that qualify by our definition of a ministry blog.
Whatever the reasons, it’s worth knowing that there’s an imbalance out there when it comes to theology. There’s a tendency to take things as true when they’re online, and so it’s important to be aware of that when you’re reading a blog. It’s also something you might keep in mind if you’re trying to take in a variety of viewpoints to understand a certain topic or just to learn more about theological differences.
2. Some mostly conservative fringe groups occupy a disproportionate amount of bandwidth online
That one may be more obvious, but it’s important to be aware of nonetheless. Don’t think that just because someone screams louder online that they’re opinions are more valid than anyone else’s. Also don’t assume they’re representative of a wider movement or Christianity as a whole.
3. The Christian blogosphere as we tend to experience it is dominated by American voices
The Great Commission involves reaching the whole world for Christ. Doing that takes a lot of different kinds of people. So when it comes to reading what’s out there about Christian thought, it would be unwise to think that anything outside of America isn’t worth reading. Rick Warren has said, “It takes all kinds of people to reach all kinds of people.” The same holds true online.
The thoughts above from Paul are from an interview he did for Christianity Today some time ago. I have no idea how old the interview is, but I find the things he spelled out to be true today. Paul has been at this “thing” called blogging for many years now.
Later in that interview he goes on to say,
“So if you want balance, you have to dig a little deeper and seek out the writers who don’t appear as often in the search results, are from other places, don’t have a particular agenda, or aren’t trying to sell things. So I’m not sure if much has changed or just that I’ve become more analytical over time.”
It’s that last line I think we all stand to learn from as readers (and even contributors). Becoming more analytical of what we’re reading is an essential characteristic for learning in the blogosphere. I do believe there’s real learning that can take place out there, but it has to be done with a discerning and analytical mind. When no one’s editing the content, the reader is left to themselves to do it.