The following is part of a series of short interviews with academics in biblical studies. (The ‘hub’ for the discussion is the initial post on Starting an Academic Blog where the discussion and links to interviews are kept up-to-date).
I am delighted today to share an interview with Dr. Scot McKnight (Ph.D., University of Nottingham), Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Illinois. Most recently, McKnight has written a commentary on James (The Epistle of James, NICNT, Eerdmans, 2010), a book on discipleship (One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow, 2010), and a Jesus Creed book for high school students (with Syler Thomas and Chris Folmsbee) called The Jesus Creed for Students (Paraclete, 2011). His research on gospel was published in the Fall of 2011 in a book called The King Jesus Gospel (Zondervan, 2011). McKnight co-edited Jesus is Lord, Caesar is Not (with Joe Modica; IVP, 2013). His blog, Jesus Creed, has remained among the most popular in religious studies since near its inception, and he quite intentionally attempts to bridge academic biblical studies with the concerns of pastors, the church, and culture. Many thanks to Dr. McKnight for his time.
1. When and why did you start blogging?
I began to blog because a magazine editor, Bob Smietana, recommended that I do. I asked him what a “blog” was, he told me, then he said he thought I would fit the whole idea, and so I left our coffee meeting, went to my office, went to blogspot.com, set up an account, and wrote a post … and within two months the whole thing took off. What probably circulated my blog posts and what got me most interested in blogging was the rise of the emergent Christian group. They were bloggers, I was curious what they were up to, so blogging and curiosity combined to keep me interested.
2. What are a few of the benefits you see in blogging?
The single most important benefit for me was interaction with the church. The blog world is a radical democracy, something I felt immediately — I wondered who these people were (some anonymous) who were taking issue with my stuff, and that democracy has become for me the voice of American Christianity. Now that my blog has grown I’m exposed to folks from all sectors of the church and it has made me more aware of the church.
It keeps me reading books and essays and articles that are of use to pastors, and my blog has attempted to speak into the pastor’s world. I read books for them, and I choose books that will be of use to pastors, and many of these books I would never have read prior to the blog.
Friendships: I have formed friendships with people who interact on my blog, like Jim Martin down in Tennessee (formerly Texas), and professors who read the blog and who write me, and lay folks who are curious and write me. At most events where I speak now I meet those who read the blog.
Blogging makes one accountable, if one has commenters. There are some who do not permit comments, which is a travesty to the kind of communication a blog affords, but I chose early that interaction would be part of the game or I’d close up shop and not blog. Blogging inculcates civility, or we seek to inculcate civility. There are some well-known magazines with comments that are not monitored well, and the result is visible hostility and uncharitable criticisms — clearly at times nothing but ideological talking points. But if we take this stuff seriously, we can learn better how to converse with one another.
3. Should more academics be blogging?
Probably not. Blogging is for some and not for others. If it is not natural or rather easy for someone, don’t do it. The one thing to avoid: don’t create a blog to promote a book. Blog if you want to create an online coffee table discussion.
4. What advice would you give an academic who is thinking about starting?
Blog often — 5x per week; blog about your own life some — not too much; vary your topics so that the blog is not about one thing (Dead Sea Scrolls); and blog incomplete thoughts with questions so that it creates conversation. If you want to lecture, avoid blogging.