It’s been a long time, but I am going to try to blog again with some level of regularity. I purged some posts from long ago that I don’t like anymore, updated the name and design, and have been thinking through how I want to use this space. For now the plan is to post about whatever I want, however I want, and see what happens.
Some posts may be short—perhaps nothing more than a quote from a book I’m reading—others may be longer. Of the longer ones, some may be more or less free-flow, while others may be more detailed, planned, and well-cited, like an essay or article would be. Generally speaking, I want to give myself some flexibility for what this blog could be and see where it goes from here.
Who is my audience? No idea. Whoever decides to follow along, I suppose. Even if no one one were to pay any regard to this I would still write because I think it is valuable to do so even just for myself. Ideally, though, I don’t want this blog to be simply a monologue but a place where engaged and lively discussion and good-faith debates may be had in the comments—so do feel free to comment.
I should note here that while I am a pastor, this is not my pulpit. I will touch on subjects and issues here that I would not address from a pulpit, or at least not in the same way. As a pastor I am ordained to proclaim the Law and Gospel. The Law is preeminently the moral law (in contrast to civil and ceremonial law) inscribed on heart and conscience, enshrined in the Ten Commandments, and further enjoined and clarified by Christ and his Apostles. The Gospel is the good news of God’s gracious salvation in the power of the Holy Spirit through the life, death, resurrection, ascension, session, and return of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
The Law and Gospel do certainly bear upon all aspects of life in some way, and we must bring them to bear, but they do not provide ready-made answers to every possible question, circumstance, or situation. They do not tell you how to change your oil or play the guitar, nor do they adjudicate every detail of complex political or cultural matters. For much of life, God calls us to use our God-endowed reason, prudence, discretion, and wisdom—in conformity to the general principles of his Word to be sure, but also in direct engagement with reality and careful, attentive consideration of it, as we seek to discern not just what is right and what is wrong, but what is true, good, beautiful, fitting, and beneficial.
Through this blog I hope to exemplify the spirit and method of irenicism; hence, the title. The Latin phrase beneath it, ad pacem per argumentum (“to peace through argument”), signals that the irenicism in view here isn’t a fluffy sentimentalism that shuns critique or debate, nor is it an endorsement of modern ecumenical movements. Instead, I have in mind the sort of irenic purpose and method exemplified by those Reformed orthodox divines who aimed at peace through reasoned persuasion. You can read more about them and this sort of Reformed irenicism here, here, and here. As these articles point out, irenicism is both goal and method. Irenics does not exclude polemics, but it does call for polemics to be used carefully. The irenic goal is peace achieved through good-faith, charitable, honest argumentation and persuasion.
Irenicism, of the sort I am describing, seems to be in short supply among Reformed evangelicals these days. The year of our Lord 2020 and its aftermath have presented us with a whole host of political and social issues to fight over, and social media has only stoked the flames of these controversies in the way it primes us to engage in them. It incentivizes the impulsive response, the diatribe, and childish one-upmanship. One often finds, on both sides of an issue, a lot of heat, but not much light.
My frustration with how such issues have been handled on social media is part of what lead me to take a total social media fast for a few months earlier this year. It is also part of what prompted me to revamp this blog. A blog, in contrast to a Tweet or a Facebook post, seems to me to be an online context that is much more conducive to careful thought and sustained reasoning.
My goal is to commend the spirit of Reformed irenicism in how I engage on the various topics I choose to write on, whether they’re controversial or not. I’m sure I won’t do so perfectly. In my Blogroll I link to some individuals and groups who have been engaging in the irenic project longer than I have and who are much further along in this than I am. Still, I welcome all who may be interested to join me along this path. Follow along, comment—maybe even start your own blog as well.
Further let me ask of my reader, wherever, alike with myself, he is certain, there to go on with me; wherever, alike with myself, he hesitates, there to join with me in inquiring; wherever he recognizes himself to be in error, there to return to me; wherever he recognizes me to be so, there to call me back: so that we may enter together upon the path of charity, and advance towards Him of whom it is said,
Seek His face evermore.
– Augustine, On the Trinity I.3.5