Most of us spent at least some the time during our periods of formal education engaging in bull sessions, wrestling with ideas with a group of friends or acquaintances in a self-sustaining battle of ideas in which point and counterpoint were the acceptable weapons. Once outside that milieu, opportunities to test one’s thinking became greatly limited. The fortunate among us have good and intelligent friends with whom we can periodically engage in intellectual banter. Some Christians are blessed with a peculiar Bible study group that allows for much the same thing. I would argue that those blessings are rare and always have been. The reason we celebrate groups like the Inklings (see also this compendium), is because such gatherings and ongoing willingness for continual critique are so extraordinary.
Looking back, the common substitute for such opportunities for iron to sharpen iron (Proverbs 27:17) was journaling. Any writer will confirm that when you attempt to put words to paper (or text to screen), you are forced to think things through in ways that talking never engages. While it is possible to write in a stream of consciousness framework, this quickly becomes unsatisfying when you take to read your previous writing. You immediately begin critiquing yourself, so in the end, if you continue writing you will also engage in an ongoing critique of what you are putting down.
One of the great problems of our modern social and intellectual milieu, at least from my perspective, is that as we became more and more verbal (radio) and visual (movies and television) we became more stream of consciousness and less contemplative and critique able (is critiquable a word?). That is one reason I like the explosion of blogging. If for no other reason it has started a lot of people journaling who had not done so with pen and paper and it allows for at least some recapture of the bull session through the comments and related articles others post (trackbacks).
My professional life has long been centered on hypertext. While by definition, I am a technical writer and information architect, my focus has been online information and interlinking of content that hypertext technology has allowed. You should understand that hypertext, while radically facilitated by the computer and brought into the mainstream of social interaction by the Internet, is not new. All cross-referencing and footnoting are early forms of hypertext and I would argue that the Jews, through their commentaries on the Talmud and their Misna, created extensive manually hypertextual documents. Computers only facilitated ideas already in use.
What hypertext does is force a form of point-counterpoint on the writer. There is a reason you take the time to link to what someone else said either because it supports your premise (point) or because you disagree with what was said (counterpoint). While there are people who semi-mindlessly link to others (visit any site propagandizing for a political or social point of view) that doesnt invalidate my point.
Blogging at its best combines the intellectual self-critique of a journal with the feedback of a hypertextual bull session and it does this while capturing that process as a permanent record that can be referred to by others over time. Note: Even if you abandon your blog and its bits are erased from some server, your thinking is still extant in many locations, in the sites and writings of those who commented on or linked to your thoughts, in places like Google and the Wayback Machine, and who knows where else in our increasingly interconnected world.
While that scares some people, those afraid their words will be used against them in some later context, it encourages me. It means that God can use my efforts well into the future in ways I cannot begin to imagine. It means that when I make the effort to post something to this blog it becomes more than words dying a few feet from my lips as the sound dissipates. It means that my Knowing God study can sit there as long as necessary waiting for that one person somewhere in the world who needs to hear what God has given me to say. It means that not only does Gods Word not return to him void, but that the vessels he has created from our words can have their effects well beyond their physical creation, that they too will not return void to the author and finisher of who we are.
That is the reason that while I have a counter on my site, and I subscribe to the ecosphere, those things are not really significant in the eternal scheme of things. What is significant is that I believe God is using this little exercise in online journaling to help me sharpen my thinking and work out my salvation along with those who read and link to and interact with me. But, at the same time he is storing up at least some resources to be later found by those in search of help whom he sends my way, to meet a unique need at some unique moment in their lives. Does it matter how many? Not really. We like to tell the world that Christ would have died for one sinner. So, would you not write to be the tool to save one soul?
Thank you for reading this blog. I hope from time to time it gives you a useable insight or helps you through a difficult time. I have gained much from the people who this exercise has brought into my life. That is Gods gift to both of us and I will continue to try and be faithful to his calling.
Grace and peace to your day.