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When people see the main title of my blog, “Mark D. Roberts,” they pretty quickly figure out that this is my name. I admit that it’s not a very catchy title for a blog, but it’s the one I chose when I started blogging in 2003 and so it has become my “brand,” if you will. At least “Mark D. Roberts” is a fairly clear and straightforward title.
I can’t say the same thing for my subtitle, however. “Thoughtfully Christian Reflections on Jesus, the Church, and the World” raises a few eyebrows. More than one person has wondered if a typo slipped into my subtitle: “You mean ‘Thoughtful Christian Reflections,” don’t you? Not ‘Thoughtfully Christian,’ right?” In fact, though I hope my reflections in this blog are both thoughtful and Christian, I have intentionally chosen to call them “Thoughtfully Christian Reflections.” Allow me to explain why.
First, however, I’d like to say something about the word “reflections.” This blog includes my reflections on all sorts of things. Many will be about specifically Christian topics, especially “Jesus” and “the Church.” Others will be much broader in scope, focusing on “the World” (which pretty much includes just about anything, except, I suppose, for outer space). In my blog, unlike in my books, I am not publishing carefully composed thoughts that have been cleaned up by a team of editors. Nor am I posting dissertations or decrees. No edicts from on high here or finely tuned syllogisms. Rather, this blog is composed of my ponderings, musings, and ruminations, in a word, my reflections. (Photo: Laity Lodge and surroundings reflected in the Frio River.)
Because I’m putting up reflections, rather than more polished presentations, I reserve several rights:
• The right to post thoughts before they are fully formed.
• The right to be wrong more frequently than I’d like to admit.
• The right to learn from my readers through comments and emails.
• The right to change my mind as needed.
• The right to share a bit of my heart and not just my head.
• The right to have fun.
I was first inspired to use the word “reflections” to describe this blog because of the “Daily Reflections” I write for TheHighCalling.org. And sometimes my reflections on this blog will be quite literally visual reflections, photographs that entertain, inspire, or inform.
I will be posting “Christian Reflections” quite unapologetically. I am an orthodox Christian, by which I mean that I affirm the core essentials of the Christian faith as passed down through the centuries. To be even more specific, I can say the Nicene Creed without crossing my fingers. In the tree of Christian tradition, I have made my nest on the Protestant branch, and am a Presbyterian pastor with generally Reformed and Evangelical convictions. But I have deep appreciation for other branches of the Christian tree, from which I have learned much and upon which I have many friends. Nevertheless, though I highly value Christian tradition and the wisdom of the Church, I am committed to the superlative authority of Scripture, much as you would expect from someone who nests on my particular Christian branch.
I also have great respect for and many friends who embrace other religious traditions besides Christianity, or no religion at all, for that matter. During my years of blogging, I have had open and helpful online conversations with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, agnostics, and atheists. I have tried hard to listen attentively to those who don’t believe as I do, yet also to speak plainly as a Christian. I believe that the world will be a better place if people with differing and even contradictory opinions learn to speak the truth as they see it and also to listen fairly and respectfully to those with whom they disagree.
This is one major reason that I accepted Beliefnet’s offer to publish my blog here. For years, I have admired Beliefnet’s effort to promote conversation among people about matters of faith, including a wide range of believers and unbelievers in the discussion. You’ll find material on this website written by Christians of all theological stripes, not to mention Jews, Muslims, pagan, atheists, and, well, you name it. For an example of Beliefnet at its best, see the online dialogue between Bart Ehrman and N.T. Wright on the problem of suffering: “Is Our Pain God’s Problem?” In an unusually successful way, Beliefnet fosters intelligent, heartfelt discussion of the deepest issues of life.
So, I hope to join the Beliefnet-sponsored conversation as a one among many Christian voices. Several of my favorite voices already blog on Beliefnet, including Scot McKnight and Ben Witherington. In my writing here, I hope to offer, not just Christian reflections, but also thoughtfully Christian ones. I’ll explain what I mean in tomorrow’s post.