The Stance I Take in a Blog Post

This morning I had a friend write and say she was offended by what I said about divorce, and it took me off guard because I wasn’t sure what I had said. So she pointed me to a post … and I read the post … and for the life of me couldn’t figure out what “I” was saying. Instead, as I told her, I was summarizing what an author had written and not really giving my point of view at all. “We’re good then,” she said.

Which made me think that I should perhaps remind readers again of the stance I take on posts. Most of the time, at least almost always when I’m summarizing a book, I try to get inside the skin of an author and present his or her views without evaluating everything said — as in “Here’s what she said” but “this is what I think.” Instead, I try to present the author’s view as positively as possible and assume you will know that I’m not talking about what I think.
This “inside the skin” stance sometimes frustrates you (if you are wondering what I think), and sometimes frustrates me (because sometimes I’d like to say what I think), but it’s an educational strategy I have learned from teaching. Present the argument, don’t always reveal what you think, and let the argument determine the conversation. I think this strategy creates better and more conversation.
I have found that when I give my view on the blog that it become more “reader vs. blogger” debate instead of “here’s what I the reader think of that argument.” 
About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Phillip

    I think it is an execellent teaching method and a way to “do unto others” by trying to fairly present their arguments. One of my teachers in seminary suggested that before we enter any debate we ought to know the other person’s position so well that we could repeat it back to him, and he would say, “That is exactly what I mean.” In that process, we may also learn a little and even modify our own positions.

  • RJS

    I think many times it is valuable at some point to move to what you think. But getting into the ideas of others and presenting them fairly is crucial.
    I think that some of the discussion on this week’s “Signature in the Cell” post wants me to pass judgment without first presenting and discussing the author’s argument fairly. But that would defeat the purpose.

  • dopderbeck

    Agree with RJS. At some point, the function of a conversation leader with some expertise is to offer informed perspectives. Many of us are gun shy of this because of experiences in authoritarian communities. Still, the purpose of conversation isn’t just for its own sake, its a communal movement towards living truth.

  • Scott Eaton

    I agree with RJS and David. Your educational strategy is good and makes for good converstation. This is one reason this blog is one of the most interesting out there. But at some point it would be nice to read what you think.

  • Paul Sheneman

    Thank you for making your book review method explicit. I think that getting “inside the skin” is a valuable teaching method which helps facilitate discussion on the material at hand. It is one that I think that I will be more sensitive to in the future as I put together lessons in the local church in order to prevent shorting out the discussion before it can have a chance to develop.

  • John W Frye

    I, too, Scot, appreciate your pedagogical approach (how’s that for a BIG word?). If you give us your take on an issue too soon, because of your inherent authority as scholar, friend and blog host, we *might* accept your position without first wrestling through the topic at hand for ourselves. Having said that, I am with RJS and the others who, out of respect for you, would like to know where you land on some of the rough and tumble topics you present.

  • Dave Leigh

    Thanks for noting this. I love your approach and I think it’s been clear to me when you’ve done this. However, since we regard you as an authority on so many issues, you may want to be careful to always make that distinction clear. I would hate to think someone might do something you disagree with, thinking you are endorsing their direction. I would also hate to see you get in trouble up the road with someone who takes you out of context.
    To err on the side of clarity is always best.

  • Terry

    Scot, though you likely have already found the point to be made, I too stand in line behind RJS, David, Scott and John to say that your approach is quite valuable. It is one that I use myself on a regular basis. At the same time there is a particular level of expertise and wisdom that you have that is as valuable to me as the former. You are a gracious host; as host there is great-value in your learned and gracious perspective.

  • Peggy

    While I appreciate what the others (RJS, et al) are saying (and frequently feel that same way), I think it is totally appropriate for you to let things hang.
    While there are those of us who will engage in the process to understand and discern, there are always those who will look for the easy way out. You can sometimes recognize them as those who do not read the comment thread (and sometimes the entire blog post itself!) before making comments themselves.
    I appreciate the way you bring up topics and start conversations. I do not think you should feel obliged to offer your conclusions or opinions about everything.

  • AHH

    Like a couple of commenters, I would observe that in individual posts it is sometimes unclear whether you are presenting your own view or that of the work being reviewed. Those who have been around the blog for a while can probably figure it out, but for the sake of people new to the blog it would be helpful to make sure there are enough phrases like “Smith and Jones say” in postings to make clear that you are summarizing the views of others.

  • Mike M

    The message is in the medium. I think we can tell a lot of HOW Dr. McKnight thinks by his postings and not necessarily his comments. I think the approach is well done and I am guilty myself of sometimes forcing a position.

  • Todd

    I would recommend your friend read Kevin DeYoung’s recent blog post on being offended and what a problem that has become in discourse, but then again it might offend someone that I am offering up this suggestion…

  • Rick

    Your annual (spring training), outspoken opinion of the Cubs eventually being good is quite unfortunate ;^)
    At first, I thought about how well you handle the sharing of your opinion, but then I thought about the comments in the past year or two. Whereas a few years ago there was a balance of opinion in the comments that helped lead to third way considerations, that balance no longer seems to be as strong. There is an absence of comments from many who so often brought thoughtful comments from a certain perspective.
    I cannot say for sure that there is a cause/effect relationship, but perhaps more opinion by Scot, especially his goal of third way solutions, might bring back a balance of voices from all angles.

  • RJS

    Not to mention the rather outspoken stance against true baseball – as seen in the AL
    And then we have hockey …