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15 January 2007
  A Confessional Decline in the Blogosphere?
or, I Sense a Disturbance in the Force

The Theology Geek weighs in with this observation: "The Confessional Lutheran Blogosphere, I believe, is on the decline at the moment." In the comments, Dan @ NR says, "While I would agree that some very good writers have left the Blogosphere, there are new ones also popping up."

What say you? Are we advancing, declining, or holding our own?

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I've been pretty discouraged of late about the health of the Lutheran Blogosphere, owing primarily to a very public, rather bitter disagreement between a pastor and two laymen on the subject of Sanctification. Just yesterday there was a ray of light in the form of a lengthy post, and I hope that it leads to reconciliation.
Blogging has been less fun with the clamming-up of the seminarians, to be sure, but as long as the stalwart blogs (this one included) continue to press on, this experiment will be a success.
I agree with Kletos regarding the sanctification issue. There was an opportunity for teaching that was mistaken for an opportunity to debate.

I find the silence of the seminarians to be disturbing. I find it nothing short of incredible that someone is asked not to blog about something he is interested in. It is a shame to think that a seminarian's comments regarding the very doctrine he is learning would be a negative, even when it is reviewed by a calling congregation. If the seminarian's mind has changed about something he blogged about three years ago, he can state that he changed his mind. Blogs are clearly dated. A blogger can update prior posts and say, this is what I think now. We need more confession of the truth, not less.

Having just hosted the most recent Carnival, I think I can speak for the other two Carnival moderators when I say that it seems to be harder to put a Carnival together than it was during the first four or five. There are very popular (and very good) confessional Lutheran bloggers that don't send material. They have already spent the time writing the material down and publishing it, but they don't spend the 30 seconds to send an email. Multiple emails (and I don't want to be a spammer) and LC host-blog reminders don't shake them loose. I would be happy to hear from them why not. Maybe they don't need the Carnival. Fine. The Carnival needs them.

There is a little bit of brain drain from the two bloggers that have gone East. Perhaps they will return when it's found that the grass isn't so green over there.

Now, the good news: there are new bloggers out there. Carol Rutz is a new one. Luther at the Movies. Northwoods Seelsorger. Not Alone. House, M.Div. They are out there. Aardvark does a good job highlighting them. The Lutheran Blog Directory should use an RSS feed or post whenever it receives a new blog.

There is a new Lutheran blog ring that is out there, but I'm not on it because I don't like ceding control of what links appear on my sidebar. It could also use some aesthetic improvement. :) It can still be used to find new blogs that register themselves.

Well that was a nice rant. I would have saved it for my blog, but Aardvark has a better TLB rating so maybe more people will see it here. ;)

Let's be clear here. There is some very serious sinful confusion out there over sanctification and the "two laymen" in question simply want to do and act and be whatever they want with impunity, and sadly, apparently with the encouragement of their friends in the Lutheran blogophere.

The Lutheran blogosphere is just fine and alive and well.

The little tempests in the teapots that take place on blog sites only a thankfully few people visit is no indication of any trouble in the greater blogosphere.

We have good blogs out there and they keep consistently pumping out good posts: Cranach, Incarnatus Est, Weedon, Pastor Snyder does a nice job here and with his ask the pastor column, so many good ones I can hardly keep up with them!

My own efforts see between 500 and 600 unique visitors a day to the "Cyberbrethren" site.

Lutheran blogs are doing just fine.

As for the "Carnival" ... I really don't know what the point of it is since anyone with a feed reader can easily keep up with every Lutheran blog site out there, quickly and conveniently. So, I wouldn't stress over that one too much either.

All is well. Full steam ahead!
I'd like to wade into this...but not on the subject of this mysterious unholy trinity of two laymen and a seminarian/pastor/whomever. More or less because I don't know anything about that...nor do I really think I want to know anything about that.

I bounce back and forth between if I should call my blog (jWinters.com) a "confessional" blog or not. Here's why - and no, it has nothing to do with my subscription to the BOC which is most certainly quia...

"Confessional" blogs have a tendency to be aimed at the target audience of the theologically well educated. Even dropping terms like "Sanctification" tends to alienate a certain readership. I know that many of the people who actually do read my blog (the poor sods) aren't necessarily Lutheran and that at least one is only nominally Christian.

Of course, my blog examines the LSB commemoration cycle --- which is reeks a bit of theological highmindedness. Which brings me to my next point...

Perhaps not so much on Sainted (and Sinnered) Aardvark's BBOV - which I love by the way - but on many a "Confessional" Lutheran Blogs and forums - the agenda seems to be more "urination contest" than "Gospel exposition." This generally tends to make people shut up. It made me stop visiting my once beloved "Lutheran" groups on myspace.

I'm not saying I don't make mistakes and that others don't either - the Almighty must have a cork board just filled with the idiotic things I have posted from time to time on my blog, nor am I above reproof --- but I've got pretty tough skin and some of the things that I've seen posted by fellow confessional bloggers has been downright hate filled.

Hah! In fact, probably opening my trap on this subject has only proven that I need some education by my brother and sister bloggers. Still, I applaud Aardie for posting this and I do hope that it will lead to Spirit filled discussion on the topic.

So...fire away. ;-)

in Christ,

I don't think the 'decline' is due to any factor other than that the blogosphere itself is mutating and shifting as time goes by. We're past the "oh, how cool" phase of blogging and into the "why and on what should I blog?" phase. I hope to continue to contribute in a positive way to the blogosphere, but the time will likely come when I too pack it in, simply because I've run out of things to say.
JW, your comment is spot on brother! We do all have to watch to make sure our blog sites are not merely fora for us to tell everyone what happens to be ticking us off, or what's wrong with the world, or with our Synod or with the other blog site that said something I don't like. I do that sometimes, and maybe sometimes it's even important to do that. But blog sites devoted, for example, only to ripping into every real or perceived thing wrong with The LCMS just won't have much staying power. The blog sites I read most often are those by guys and gals posting what has caught their eye in the news, or in their reading, or a thought that struck them or some other thing like that. I think Ed Veith is the best of the bunch of blogs out there for hitting a wide variety of interesting subjects. Aardvark does a nice job with saints days, etc. So many good blogs. Thanks for the reminder of what might be wrong with blogs that are devoted mostly to ranting and raving and never offering something positive for the reader to reflect on. I have to watch that on my blog site. So, good thoughts!
There are many types of blogs out there, especially if you read many outside of the Lutheran Blogosphere. Some are just plain gripe blogs. Some are "this is how my day went" blogs. Some take a look at current events. Some are tounge-in-cheek or outright satire. Of course, some are technical, whether it be technology related or purely theological. However, it seems like we are seeing more of the former (i.e. griping and personal) and less of the latter.

With the new job, I haven't been able to read as many blogs as I once did, so I apologize if my opinion is skewed and I am missing a whole slew of great blogs out there.
I'm not sure there's been a decline. I think some of the fun has gone out of it, the sense of collegiality that existed back in 2004, say.

This is partly an inevitable consequence of the blogosphere having grown an awful lot in the last three years. There was a time that everyone in the Lutheran blogosphere read everyone else's blogs. Now there are simply too many blogs for that to be humanly possible. As a result, a debate on sanctification can rage in one part of the Lutheran blogosphere without some of us even realising it's happening.

And in my view the silencing of Josh by his seminary ripped the heart out of the Lutheran blogosphere. Things haven't been the same since.

As something of an outsider in these circles, I think that the Lutheran blogosphere has become more definitely an LCMS (and to some extent WELS/ELS) blogosphere. Pr Humann and Chris Williams here in the UK stopped posting, "Luthodox" Chris Jones is still a welcome visitor in comment boxes but posts very infrequently. Thomas is still going strong, but I suspect would be struck dumb with horror at the thought of being co-opted into a "confessional Lutheran blogosphere". My main interactions seem to be elsewhere these days, partly because I haven't had time to catch up with the newer Lutheran blogs (hence my sidebar is a bit of a 2004/5 timewarp).

So, overall, not a decline as such. Things have diffused, diverged and diversified though, perhaps.
Hey, just stumbled across your blog and am looking forward to reading through it a little (when the opportunity presents itself).

To speak of the lack of seminarian postings, I would say that it has been discouraged at the schools, at least at my alma mater. I think part of the reason is because some gentlemen at the seminary (and directly in the parish [and some long-term pastors who used to know everything and now REALLY know everything {and many in-between}]) have some very strong theological statements to make - and many times these things are not as easily heard in print as they are orally.

In one of my recent exchanges (which I never should have fallen prey to in the first place), we ended up talking past each other because there was no inflection, and because we're both type-A+ personalities.

The seminaries are rightfully worried that these arguments will not only besmirch the names of the school, but also the reputation of the person.

Is it right? Probably not. Is it fair? Well, when a person voluntarily joins an organization, they submit themselves to the rules until either 1. they leave the organization, or 2. they lobby to change the rules.

As it is, I read many of these posts about the 'Lutheran Orthodoxy' that have found themselves online with interest - and then go back to my BoC to prepare studies for members who haven't even been taught what the BoC is - nor why it is so important.
Pastor Reed:

I don't think anyone would contest that a seminary has the right to request the silence of seminaries. As you correctly point out, enrollment is voluntary.

It just seems very strange for an institution to ask such a thing. Are there trade secrets (interesting concept for a seminary)? Are the staff members of an institution worried about libel? How weird is it that an institution whose goal it is to equip people to proclaim the truth close down proclamation while a student is attending? If I wanted to go to seminary I would be leery of an institution that made such a request.

I understand, it's easy for someone to say, blogger X is going to institution Y, therefore all Y graduates are going to make the same "mistake" in their writings as blogger X. The person who makes summary judgment on an institution based on a single-person sample size risks missing out on an entire class of worthy candidates. Some people even learn from their mistakes when their writings are challenged.

I think that the Internet is old enough now to where most people recognize that personal blogs are personal and don't represent the official values of an employer or educational institution.

Anyway, if you're silenced at sem, please come back when you're done! :)
Dan, your points are very valid, and I agree - seminarians have some very valid things to contribute to online discussions. Here are a few things that are unfortunate: the seminary actually, in a way, is protecting the seminarians from themselves and others. Much as a teenager should be watched when (s)he is online because of predators - we have theological cyber-predators that will bait and taunt, twist words, discourage and harass these seminarians (I won't mention motives, but I get the impression that it makes them feel better to beat up someone who hasn't been 'in the ministry' very long).

Considering that these seminarians are adults, one might say they're big boys and can handle themselves, BUT they must crawl before they can walk, and walk before they run - so they should work through their arguments in the closed system of the seminary before they leave those walls to 'defend the faith.'

The other thing is that as a student, their primary vocation is to learn - to study - and to read, mark, learn, inwardly digest, yada, yada, yada. Getting your butt kicked by others helps you learn, that's for sure, but it's better to do it after you have a little more 'hyde of a rhino' build up and in an environment that [for the most part] will help you work through some of the issues you may face as you grow in your pastoral formation.
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