I apologize that this blog has gone so long without either a substantial post or an update explaining the lack of posting. I have some free time this morning so I figured I’d rectify this by offering a brief update on some things. I can only answer for myself as one of the founding members here. I’m sure the other contributors have many reasons of their own for the cessation of posting.
I have reached a point in my life where blogging has ceased having enough importance for me to justify continuing to spend any amount of regular time to it. I began blogging (around four years ago now, I believe) because certain blogs had come to have an impact on my own thinking (mostly in the way of directing me toward reading resources I would not have otherwise been exposed to), and I thought that perhaps by doing so myself I could in turn help others to think more clearly about issues of catholicity by offering public reflections as a result on my own study/thinking. I also found the dialog which took place on blogs to be somewhat beneficial. Even if the discussion could at times be irritating and would at still others devolve into a mass of nonsensical, unbeneficial, and vitriolic diatribes, I always felt that the good outweighed the bad.
The inception of my blogging life took place initially at a time when my theological convictions were at something of a point of crisis, mostly due to my reading of the Church Fathers and comparing their way of thinking to the vapid form of Evangelicalism I had previously avowed. I had come to gain an appreciation for theological perspectives outside of my own and felt myself leaning ever more away from American Evangelicalism toward a more catholic way of thinking and living. I had gained an appreciation for Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Anglo-Catholicism, but my Calvinism always remained strong enough to keep this appreciation entirely at the level of aesthetics rather than actual conviction.
As I was working through many issues, mostly at an academic/theoretical level, I found the world of theoblogs to be one place where I could gain a wide exposure to a variety of perspectives and be informed of different positions by way of conversation with those who actually held them. This was and is a good thing, and I am appreciative for the role my internet interlocutors have played in the development of my own thinking on issues surrounding Christian catholicity in our day.
But I have reached a point in my life where it is necessary for me to move beyond the theoretical and into the practical. Blogs cannot be an end in themselves, and in my mind they never were. I always knew that my involvement in extended internet discourse would die out eventually as I moved away from the level of thinking through issues to developing firm convictions and eventually into putting these convictions into practice through either professional academic or ordained ecclesiastical vocation.
Well, I am neither, at this point, a professional academic nor an ordained minister. But I have at least developed a firm set of convictions concerning what I believe and what the Lord is calling me to which have made it hard for me to justify speding any significant time on blogging any longer.
What I mean is that I no longer find myself in the heated struggle of heart and mind which I had been experiencing when I entered into the wonderful world of blogging. I am quite able now to claim both the early Church Fathers as well as the Reformation Church Fathers as my own, and have very much come to grips with my identity as an heir of the Protestant Reformation, and my own particular theological tradition as confessional Presbyterianism. My faith and life in Christ has been nurtured by this tradition, and by a particular church within this tradition, for the last six of my nine years as a Christian. And even through my time of struggle I have not been exposed to any conclusive reason, either theoretical or practical, which has enticed me to throw off this identity. Much to the contrary, having arrived now at this side of said struggle, I have become even more firm in my confessional Reformed convictions than I was going into it, and have thus decided to pursue ordination to the Gospel ministry in the PCA. To be sure, I do not view the PCA as a perfect denomination or even necessarily better than other Reformed denominations. But, my understanding of catholicity demands that I stay where the Lord has placed me unless or until it becomes impossible for me to continue to do so.
Thus, as my self-identity as a confessional Reformed catholic has solidified, my desire for catholicity has become most immediately focused on the unity of the confessional Reformed churches in America. This does not mean that I have decided to cut off discussion with Christians of other traditions. But it does mean that, as a Reformed believer, I have come to see it as somewhat superfluous to work towards organic unity across confessional boundaries when the churches within my own confessional tradition remain as fragmented as they are, and are ever striving towards more fragmentation.
My understanding of the best way to work toward this unity has become fully church-focused. I had previously, as a full-time aspiring academic, been dealing in the world of the universal and theoretical. This is one of the reasons why blogging had become important for me. Theoblogs deal almost entirely in the world of the theoretical and the universal. They rarely get down to the dirty level of the practical and the particular. It is, of course, absolutely necessary that, for a time, all aspiring pastors and theologians deal with, work through, and develop strong convictions concerning issues in the realm of the theoretical and universal. However, the theoretical must never be viewed as an end in itself. We must always, as Christian churchmen, be asking concerning our theorem, “How will this preach, and how will it work itself out in the real world in the life of the actual assembly of God’s redeemed people?” Thus, when I began to sense my calling as a pastor and to develop a more churchly frame of mind, I became much more focused on ministry in the setting of an existing, local expression of the catholic Church than on thinking about that Church as a theory in the abstract.
Therefore, I have become convinced that I am being called first and foremost to be a pastor and theologian for a specific local gathering of God’s people, formed by the promise of reconciliation with God and each other in Christ as it comes to us in the ministry of Word and Sacrament. Where this gathering shall be I do not know at this point. But it has become my primary goal to prepare myself as best I can to serve that particular flock, wherever it should be. This is where catholicity must begin: in the nitty gritty of real, local churches. From here it must, of course, also work its way out into the church universal. But it must never skip this most basic step, for if it does, any talk or pretense of catholicity is but an empty show.
So, as I have continued to work to prepare myself for such ministry by developing my own personal and churchly piety, by serving in various ways in my church, by working with my pastors and elders, by gleaning from my courses at WTS in ways that have moved beyond the theoretical, and by striving to be a faithful servant of Christ in both my marriage and in my part-time employment, the world of blogging has receded very much into the background for me. This does not mean that I have come to view the time I have spent blogging as superfluous. I do not. In fact, I know that it has played an important role in the development of my thinking at what may perhaps prove to have been, when all is said and done, the most vital time of that development. However, it has become clear to me that blogging has served its purpose, and that it is time for me to move on and to cease devoting my time on any regular basis to reading and writing on blogs.
Thus, I bid this blog, its contributors, and all those who have persevered in reading my obtuse ruminations, a very fond farewell. You will most likely see me from time to time popping up in the comment threads of my heretofore “regular reads”, but as far as contributions in any regular or substantial manner are concerned, I am officially announcing my transition into the phase of blog retirement.
I am always happy to maintain private correspondance, as time permits, via email: jb4calvin at g mail dot com. I can also be found on facebook.
Wishing sincere blessings to all,