About a decade ago, I started an internet journal called The Theologian (www.theologian.org.uk). I thought an entrepreneurial spirit for the sake of the gospel might be a good thing. I chose that name for it after much thought, partly in appreciative imitation of the journal Churchman. I wanted it to be about theology and for people interested in theology, remembering that Jim Packer says all Christians are called to be theologians. I was delighted to be able to grab the domain name before anyone else thought of it.
What I did not anticipate was that some people would think by this that I was giving myself the grand title of “The Theologian” or, even worse, “THE Theologian”. That would be exceptionally arrogant. It was never my intention. I never thought of Gerald Bray (editor of Churchman) as “THE Churchman” (or the editor of the Guardian as himself “The Guardian”), so this idea never crossed my mind. I realise now that this was perhaps naive of me.
Later, in conversation people started refering to The Theologian as “your website”. From the very beginning it was a way of sharing my work and that of others (thanks so much to friends from Oak Hill who contributed articles to the early development of the site!) Yes, I have contributed a lot to it, but my stuff is vastly outnumbered by things other people (much more worthy of the title “theologian”) have written and said. So I was concerned about this. It was never supposed to be about self-promotion, but about gaining more glory for the Lord Jesus through the propagation of good, biblical, theology that would help people know and serve him better.
I thought one way around this would be to have somewhere online that was more accurately “my website”, a place just for my stuff and family stuff which would distance me personally from The Theologian more clearly and enable me to share things online without overloading the journal with it all. I was worried this would be even more misunderstood as self-glorifying. But I realised I had a lot of material in the public domain anyway (book reviews in journals, taped sermons etc), so considered the advantages to outweigh the potential disadvantages.
So some time ago I stuck a load of my sermons and articles online at www.gatiss.net . This was a convenient place to keep it all and was useful to point people to when they asked my opinion about something.
After a while the look of that site got a bit tired and dated, and because of how it was set up I couldn’t change much of it. This proved particularly annoying when I couldn’t change the “subtitle” of the site to reflect the fact that we now have three children and not just two! So I investigated options.
Since I started doing stuff online the web has changed dramatically. Blogs and Facebook and other social networks have taken off in a way people did not foresee 10 years ago. After researching it, I realised how easy it would be to transfer all my stuff to a blog set-up like WordPress, and how this could be adjusted much more easily to keep it looking fresh and up to date (not that we’re necessarily planning on adding a fourth child to the family or anything like that!).
So that’s what you now see here. All the gatiss.net stuff just in a newer package. I have removed the family aspect of it for now because I’m not sure about sharing photos of the kids and things like that with everyone in the world. But I’m happy to have a public space for things I’ve said and written publicly anyway (such as my books and articles).
This new format gives me the ability to “blog” (or even “vlog”, with videos) if I want it. But that’s another story. I’m not sure about blogging at all, since there are many pros and cons to be weighed up before I even think about starting regular “posts” – issues of time, godliness, wisdom, scholarship and, inevitably, misunderstandings of my motives and intentions which others may have if I do start blogging. I’ve seen what happens on other blogs and to other people who blog. Because some of us training at Oak Hill (I was there from 1997) were having long email discussions with multiple readers, I started a discussion group through Yahoo! which I jokingly called “Heated Debate” (after the title someone else had given to one of our email threads). That turned out not to be a joke – it eventually became too heated, so I pulled the plug on it. It made big discussions easier. There were some great moments and edifying discussions. But also some lows. We’ve all since seen examples of that, no doubt, on blogs.
Sometimes people who oppose blogs per se can be written off as technophobes and luddites who don’t appreciate how new technology has always historically been an immense blessing and aid to gospel work. I’ve enjoyed reading other people’s blogs and learned a great deal from their online ministry. If I can be edified by them why not edify others in the same way? But there are also dangers, which lots of people have noted. There is great wisdom in listening to what intelligent critics of these new media say, especially those whose theological and pastoral hearts are in the right place.
The Church is always behind the world in adopting these new things – but rightly so, because the world always rushes in for its own profit and glory and yet we want, rightly, to pause and ask the Lord for his direction.
So for the moment, this is not really worthy of the title blog. Though perhaps it could be called my public face or “online presence”. After some prayerful thought however, I have now begun to blog on some Puritan themes in the accountable company of others over at Meet The Puritans. See http://www.meetthepuritans.com/lee-gatiss/.