"The Hand" (this blog) has recently experienced two important milestones. The first was the posting of "The Hand's" (that's me! that's me!) one hundredth article. And today marks "The Hand's" first year of mostly consistent publication. This second milestone offers me an opportunity to reflect on the quality of the work (where improvement is needed), what prevents me from making this blog everything I would want it to be, and how the production of this blog has affected my life (for the better and the worse.) Before I do, I need to thank my fellow seminarian, Jason Kranzusch http://www.axegrinder.blogspot.com/ , for convincing me begin this blog.
"The Hand" was reluctant to begin such a task. Its not as if I was concerned that I would run out of things to write about. No. First, I feared it would cause me to waste precious time on the computer. Second, sometimes blogging seems to be such an egotistical endeavour and a way to be drawn into useless antagonisms with anonymous provocateurs. Also, my computer skills are still very primitive and my writing style not quite ready for prime time. How would I be perceived by readers? Would I come off as antagonistic, petty, ill-informed, dull? In conversation, I am pretty confident what makes people laugh; on a blog I am not sure how my sense of humor would come across.
However, there have been unexpected benefits from this endeavor. First, I have regained my ability for written composition. This talent benefited me in college, but afterwards I let it deteriorate. It was not regained in seminary; struggling to put my thoughts on paper was one of the things that made seminary a struggle. Yet now I am able to compose lengthy rough drafts in less than an hour. Soon I hope to improve on composing without a draft (as I am doing so now). Blogging has given me an opportunity to express myself on a wide range of personal interests that include not only spiritual topics but also history, literature and politics. I find very few opportunities to discuss and debate such issues. Blogging sermons has been instructive. In the process of typing out my notes, I have discovered that many of my observations were mere speculation and not derived from the text. Also, my theological writings have been very revealing to me. When reading material such as N.T. Wright and Torrance, I have discovered that my initial impressions do not survive repeated readings. Often when about to offer a critique, I discover that what I had originally thought the author was saying was not what he was trying to communicate.
As noted earlier, my computer skills are primitive. I cannot download pictures (I can't use a digital camera) or videos onto my blog. I have had difficulty with basic tasks such as typing in italics and bold lettering. One whole post failed to come together because when I used multi-colored type, none of it would appear on the screen. This has impeded progress in updating the look of "The Hand." I do not understand how to use such services as Technorati to allow "The Hand" to have a wider visibility. My typing is slow which not only affects output but style. As time goes on, and I get anxious to finish typing, my style begins to resemble that of a term paper for college or seminary.
The hazards of wireless Internet technology has greatly impeded improvement. Lately, the connection to blogger has been lost and I lose much of what I type. (I have just been cut off from blogger again, however, I have lost nothing.) This costs time and so I must cease and desist from the activity because too much time is being lost. Sometimes multiple free wifi spots experience technical difficulties for many a day so that deadlines for posting are missed. Visiting my hometown, the only known free wifi connection is so slow I had to stop posting. Sometimes I just do not have a chance to visit free wifi spots for weeks at a time.
Enough negativity. What is "The Hand" about? It is an attempt not only to stimulate discussion on spiritual and theological issues, its goal is to edify anyone who would stumble upon this blog. That is why I include preached sermons and a feature entitled "Monday Morning Devotions." The latter are first hand impressions of Biblical passages that do not include the results of deeper study. Later, I will study the passages in greater depth and will produce sermons from them. Here are some of the better posts from this feature and the longer sermons:
Posts concerning Church life and our personal witnesses before the world are also put before readers' consideration:
"The Hand" covers a number of secular topics in addition to particularly Christian issues. Some might think that these would be subjects for a different blog. Sometimes I agree, but there is no time for me to maintain more than one blog. Some readers may want to read about Christian concerns and not deal with the rest. Yet, the Triune God is Lord over all of life, and if God is interested in the secular, so should his followers be. Christian thinking should be brought to bear on all areas of life. Here are some past posts concerning the U.S. present position in the world ( http://therighthandoffellowship.blogspot.com/2007/10/so-the-world-dislikes-us-what-else-is-new.html ), how the U.S. became a superpower under the leadership of a past President ( http://therighthandoffellowship.blogspot.com/2007/04/american-power.html ) , and "The Hand's" observations on Jane Austen ( http://therighthandoffellowship.blogspot.com/2007/02/on-reading-jane-austen.html ). Not all topics are in a serious vein. I posted this article after a reader told me that I was too sure in my opinions ( http://therighthandoffellowship.blogspot.com/2007/04/me-smug-moi.html )
"The Hand devotes his Friday evenings to reading secular and Christian works for the feature "Friday Night Frozen Dinner and an Intellectual." Strictly theological works are covered under the title "Close Encounters of a Theological Kind." The lives of saints past and present are featured in "Clouds of Witnesses."
What was the best reading I have come across this year? Two books: "The Tragedy of American Compassion" by Marvin Olasky ( http://www.amazon.com/tragedy-american-compassion-marvin-olasky/dp/089526725x ) and James Torrance's "Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace" (http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/author.pl/author_id=797 ).
In my past years reading, this quote from Francis S. Collins's "The Language of God" has to take the prize for the stupidest statement: "Recent polls confirm that 93 percent of Americans profess some form of belief in God; yet most of them also drive cars, use electricity, and pay attention to weather reports, apparently assuming that the science undergirding these phenomena is generally trustworthy." His point is that if Christians accept "the science undergirding these phenomena," then they must accept the evidence for Darwinian evolution. It made me ill that Christianity Today gave this book an award. How could Christians endorse this book? "Well," they might say, "the book does endorse belief in God, so it could be used as a tool to get people to think about God." Give me a break. Collins's belief system undermines trust in a loving God. Period.
My greatest disappointment was in reading a book by another Collins, Kenneth Collins's "The Evangelical Moment." When he identified the scholar that has most influenced his views on Biblical innerancy as William J. Abraham, it was as if my inner discernment mechanism switched to "Red Alert! Red Alert! Dive! Up periscope! This is Major Tom to Ground Patrol!" What makes it even worse is that Collins presents Abraham is a leading Wesleyan Scholar. If he is, then the Wesleyan branch of the American Church is in big trouble. In fact, reading other Wesleyan blogs has made me concerned where Wesleyans are going theologically. Especially when some claim that Wesleyanism can accommodate Open Theism and Emergent beliefs. Sometimes even those that this blog links to can express questionable theology. To counter this trend is another reason for this blog to exist.
Concerning changes to this blog in the future, these will be discussed in a post before "The Hand" signs off for Christmas. Until then, I will finish posting my observations on Thomas Sowell's book and finish quoting from the late Richard Wurmbrand. A couple more "Monday Morning Devotions" for the month will be posted as well. I must go now. It is snowing outside, the business I am now at is about, to close, I have yet to eat supper, and me and my brother are to watch and old episode of "The Rockford Files" tonight. Take advantage of this season of Advent.