Can We Talk?

No, I’m not Joan Rivers but let’s not let that get in the way. When this blog began at the OURC website I had no access to site statistics. Since moving the HB to WordPress in December ’07 I have been able to see every day which posts generate the most unique hits. So far the post on how students should behave during a controversy has generated the most hits of anything I’ve written on the new site. On the old site I know that FV-related posts generated the most hits. The second most “popular” post is the summary of the Federal Vision controversy. The third most popular post is the link to the YouTube clip from ER.

Of the most recent posts, however, the “Scott Clark is really a cosmic grasshopper post has more hits than the two-part review of Being Black and Reformed.

I know that I’m trying to have it both ways. The “Cosmic Grasshopper” post was a lark, it was silly. It’s not even a video, just bad, bizarre audio from a martial-arts teacher and one-man internet “church”! I posted it and I can’t complain if people look at it and it’s been up longer than the review, but of the two the latter is definitely more important. Why are do blog readers seem to be more interested in the opinions of a cosmic grasshopper (the learned Beetle) than they in discussion about the past and future of Reformed ministry to the African-American community?

I’m sure that this is only one more evidence I’m slow on the uptake, but I wonder if the web is really, fundamentally a place for voyeurism and conflict—even among Reformed types—more than a place for serious discussion? The cosmic grasshopper post is really intellectual voyeurism. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming you, the respected reader—after all, I posted this stuff!

I’m really asking questions about the nature of the medium. There’s no question that, speaking statistically, porn rules the web. Were I to post something titled, “Pam Anderson Repents of FV; Embraces Reformed Confessionalism,” I guess that the hits would be off the chart. Actually I did post something like that, just for fun, but then deleted it out of fear of unintended consequences. I guess we’ll never know.

I’m sure that the web and the HB can be used for good. There’s too much evidence to think any other way but my statistics page makes me wonder sometimes.

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  1. Since I click on everything you post, at least I’m not guilty of just going after the “red beetle” clip. It did provide a good chuckle and I took it for what it was. But perhaps you are learning why newspapers and other so-called secular media run certain “fluff.” Now you’re in the position of a “gatekeeper” and you have to decide how to deal with this as well!

    As a lay person who grew up in a “liberal” Reformed denomination and was brought to faith later in life, your blog in particular and certain other URCNA resources are edifying (we aren’t near such churches). As just one example, is a good way to reach “outsiders” with some basics. Kim Riddlebarger’s blog also has some real meat and it’s great to read and reflect on his sermons. On the good side, I’m exposed to some other challenging material that in the past wouldn’t have been available so readily.

    I’ve also profited from your concise blogroll, and others with access to this computer go to your blog as a “portal” of sorts to other links.

    As usual, however, along with the good there’s the bad and ugly. I talked to my wife just the other night and have decided to use my time more wisely after getting addicted to clicking around some of these blogs. Some of it is edifying but some of the “Reformed” in-fighting and controversy over secondary issues gets to be depressing. Would people really talk that way to each other face-to-face? So I’ll keep looking to certain people for good resources, but I’m bothered by certain questions. How many times would it have been better for me to be praying than blog surfing? That one is bugging me a lot. Even good material can be a bad distraction at times.

    Here’s a good item that came to my inbox; at least I didn’t surf for it. To ponder the “downside” of the Internet that you’re getting at (and all the other “instantaneous” technology flooding the world), I’d advise you read Ken Myers recent comment on “Possibility Junkies.” It’s at (Also see the Mark Edmundson article he references.)

    This portrayal of today’s students says: “They live to multiply possibilities. They’re enemies of closure.” What implications does this lack “of closure” have for the church and theology in the future? How do these seemingly endless posts and discussions on the Internet contribute to this mindset?

    As a “consumer” of blogs and other Web sites, I’m pondering where to draw the line on whether this “instant” knowledge is all that edifying. But it doesn’t hurt to have a “red beetle” post at times, either!

  2. Well, I read and appreciated your review of Black and Reformed, but I have to admit that I felt drawn to watch the video. The internet is in many ways a freak show, with the free offer of anonymity. But now that I think about it, I am drawn to investigate the various wackos of the internet because I enjoy feeling intellectually or theologically or morally superior. Wow, thanks for exposing that sin.

  3. Hi Jamie and Dennis,

    As to exposing sins, thanks. I’m glad it was useful. It doesn’t take a lot of research. I don’t have to look far to find them! (any mirror will do nicely). Please give my warmest greetings to your Mom and Dad.

    Thanks Dennis for the link. I’m a big fan of Mars Hill audio. I heard the interview on this topic and it’s dead on.

    The Learned Beetle stuff is fun, but I notice that when I post on the catechism, readership drops. I could have asked, “Red Meat or Solid Food?”

  4. Dr. Clark,

    Thank you for the constant stir that you cause, controversy is not something that you seem to be afraid of.

  5. We live in an anti-intellectual, “entertain me” society. Why should peoples’ approach to blogs be any different?


  6. Dr. Clark,

    I’ve been thinking about this for a few days. The first time I came across your name was when you started posting on the PuritanBoard. At the time I was a confused “Reformed” Baptist; for the most part, the board was – and continues to be – a place for the uneducated and unordained to spout unnecessary theological commentary (of which thing I am also guilty on occasion). But I found what you wrote compelling, and most importantly, I sought out as much as I could of the sources you referenced, both in print and in audio. To make a long story short, the end result of all that was that a year ago today my wife and I took membership vows in the nearest URC (which is still an hour and a half away!)

    So from a layman’s perspective, while the internet can, like any media, be greatly abused, it can also be used for much good. In a day where confessional Reformed churches are few and far between, the internet is sometimes the only way many of us will ever be exposed to historic Reformed teaching. The blogs I visit and profit from most are almost all by ordained ministers, so I view it as simply one more outlet for teaching, albeit informal. Augustine draws an analogy between the “spillover” (my term) from the regular ministry of the church and the rivers of Eden that flowed on to water the surrounding lands. I tend to think of the blogging you guys do in much the same way, as spillover from your ordained ministries. Most often, I find these blogs most useful as virtual bibliographies. So while the internet is rarely (if ever) a place for serious discussion, it can be a place to invite us, your anonymous readers, to participate in those serious discussions that go on in other media more suited to the purpose – namely print and audio.

    Although for a layman I may read a lot, it’s difficult for me to read more than a few paragraphs online; the medium just doesn’t seem to fit that kind of usage. When you started your series on the Catechism, I was very excited, but even with that, I struggle sometimes to keep up. The fault in that lies with me, so I hope you keep it up.

    As for the other stuff on the HB, I think it still has it’s place, if for no other reason than to allow us to satirize ourselves about those things over which we take ourselves too seriously. Or, as noted above, we can make it a superiority trip. So the medium reflects it makers, none of whom can perform any good work without some of the leaven of sin working its way in.

  7. Philip,

    Thanks for the encouragement. I’m grateful.

    I hope that perhaps it might be possible to plant a congregation nearer to where you are. That’s quite a commute!

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