Thursday, May 05, 2005

blogs as collections of essays

I read this on Scot McKnights blog. He is writing a lot about the emergent 'church' at the moment and in this post is discussing whether it should be called a 'church', 'conversation' or 'movement' and settles on the term essay! Anyway he has something interesting to say on what essay writing is to him and its connection to blogging. This is the bit that interested me:
For this reason, I suggest that what is most compatible with the Emergent conversation is the literary form called the "essay." Now, because I happen to be a huge fan of essayists, and I've blogged in the previous blog about some, and will mention more in blogs to come, my own sensitivity to the essay and to what the Emergent conversation is all about leads me to think that more "essays" ought to be written. In fact, they are being written and I want to give two prime examples. First, "blogging" is essayist -- unless, of course, it is the simple journal form where someone tells us what she is doing today. The minute the "blog" moves from simple reporting to a little reflection, it becomes essayistic. To "essay" is to probe, to attempt, to try, to stick one's neck into a room to see what is there and to reflect on what one saw. The second example is Brian McLaren's Generous Orthodoxy. Preeminently an essay, McLaren's book tries on a few ideas to see if they fit, he doesn't take his ideas more seriously than he ought, he owns up to his shortcomings, and he knows he just might be wrong and he hopes that he might be right and he asks for people to give it a shot too. This is what essays are all about: try out an idea. Or, as my favorite essayist calls it, an essay is a "line out for a walk." Essays don't like definition and final conclusion and they are not arguments but ruminations and reflections and attempts to bring order and clarity to one's thoughts -- and letting everyone in on the action. [...] The point of it all is this: these writers "wrote their way to clarity" (if they ever got there, and some didn't -- like Fowler) and it was by thinking their way on paper that they came to terms with what they were thinking. But they knew they weren't setting down final thoughts for all time. I like all this although I think it is worth noting that Scot McKnight is very wise to note that while "Essays don't like definition and final conclusion" writers probably really do! Their desire is to "write their way to clarity" as McKnight notes. That is certainly my desire. I am someone always desperately in search of the truth in a black and white form, but has rarely thinks he has reached it. This is probably reflected in my blogging which, as I have said before, is really for my benefit, and which fits the picture of the essayist McKnight describes.
All very interesting I think. PS. It is interesting also that I have always had Scot McKnight down as a typical NT scholar, but his blog shows a very different side to him. His blog which is currently doing a lot of intelligent posting on the emergent church can be found here:


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