Yesterday, I began explaining the subtitle for this blog: “Thoughtfully Christian Reflections on Jesus, the Church, and the World.” Here’s the executive summary: In this blog, I will write “reflections” that are not polished treatises so much as “ponderings, musings, and ruminations.” I will write as a Christian, that is, one who looks upon life from the perspective of Christian faith.
But I am hoping to offer, not just Christian reflections, but thoughtfully Christian ones. Yes, I am using the adverb “thoughtfully” rather than the adjective “thoughtful.” Let me clarify this use of language that might, at first, seem odd or even incorrect.
The governing adjective for my blogging is “Christian,” as I have noted already. But I seek to offer thoughtfully Christian reflections. The adverb captures the way in which I hope to write as a Christian, and I’m using it in two senses.
First, I intend to blog thoughtfully in that I will be thinking about my subject matter from a Christian point of view. Though my posts will sometimes express emotions, and though I hope occasionally to delight you as well as to inform you, my primary approach will involve the intellect.
Now I realize that some critics of religion believe that faith is completely separate from and even opposed to rationality. But this seems to me to be obviously wrong. Those of us who approach life from a theological perspective might be patently incorrect in our thinking, but at least we are thinking. In college, I spent four years of my life majoring in philosophy, where I was expected to be a thoughtful. The same was true for my time in graduate school, where I studied the New Testament and its environment from a secular, historical perspective. So I do know something about thinking. And I’m pretty sure that I am still using my intellect when I reflect on life as a Christian. Whether I’m right or wrong in what I think is open to critique. (Photo: “The Thinker” in the Musée Rodin in Paris. By Andrew Horne, public domain)
I am convinced that Christians today are in desperate need of more thinking, not to mention better thinking. Many of my fellow believers react to things in an exclusively intuitive or emotive manner. Intuition and emotion aren’t necessarily bad, to be sure. But they need to be guided and tethered by the intellect. Too often, the church has been swept along in the tidal waves of sentimentality and subjectivity that have pummeled our culture. Worship, morality, and even theology become nothing more than an exercise in feeling. (See, for example, the fascinating and chilling study by the sociologist Christian Smith, Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults.) We are created and redeemed to be fully human, creatures of emotion, intuition, actions, and thinking. We live most fruitfully when we utilize all of our God-given capacities.
So, I’m using “thoughtfully” in the sense of “Christian reflections that employ the intellect, both mine as writer and yours as reader.” But that’s not the whole story.
I am also committed to offering thoughtfully Christian reflections in another sense. Usually, when we say that someone is thoughtful, we do not mean that he or she thinks a lot. Rather, thoughtfulness is about caring for people. It’s showing consideration for others and treating them well. In this sense, thoughtfulness often requires thinking about other people and their needs. But it goes beyond thinking to a certain kind of action. Thus, I hope that my thoughtfully Christian reflections will be kind as well as insightful, gracious in addition to judicious. To use a phrase from the New Testament, in this blog I intend “to speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
I have attempted to do this ever since I began blogging at markdroberts.com in December 2003. I’d be the first to admit that I have not always lived up to my intentions, however. Sometimes, for example, I have let anger influence my writing, especially when some blogger or commenter treats me in a way that feels unfair, if not downright nasty. I don’t find it natural to walk the second blogging mile. At other times, my critiques have been less than charitable. But I remain committed to treating all people with respect and kindness, even if I often miss this mark.
Why do I seek to blog thoughtfully in this sense, especially when anger-laced commentary tends to get more attention, especially in the blogosphere? First, I am convinced that the world doesn’t need more angry invective, more character assassination, and more distortion of the ideas of those with whom we disagree. To put it positively, I believe that the world will be a better place if we can learn to treat each other thoughtfully, listening well and speaking kindly even and especially when we disagree. Civility is a virtue that is sadly lacking in almost every arena of life. I am committed to making it part of the ethos of my blog, both in my writing and in the conversation that follows in comments.
Second, I intend to offer thoughtfully Christian reflections because, in the end, I am seeking not only to think as a Christian, but also to act as a Christian. In every fact of my life, I try to imitate the love of Jesus. To be sure, I often fail at this, not only in my blogging, but also in my relationships at work, at home, in my church, and in the wider world. Still, I want to blog as one who has been called to love, not only my neighbors, but also my enemies.
Is this possible? Is this realistic? I actually think it is both. In my next post on “Thoughtfully Christians Reflections?” I’ll explain why, and tell a few stories of events that illustrate what a thoughtfully Christian conversation might look like.