Various Thoughts — and a Request — from an Enneagram 8


I failed to respond to last week’s Question That Haunts. It didn’t capture my attention. I don’t have anything interesting to say about baptismal regeneration. I’m sorry to Pastor Gary, who submitted the question. I let you down, Gary. All I’ve got is this comment from Mark Kirschieper:

The topic doesn’t much move me much, either. The English word regeneration, is used only twice, in the NT, that being Matt. 19:28, and Titus 3:5. The Greek word is “palingenesia” (feminine noun, Strong’s #3824). If the context of both passages is carefully studied, seems like they actually speak to Christ’s resurrection. At the very least, “palingenesia” is certainly a Divine accomplishment, and has nothing to do with any meritorious human act, or decision. In my humble opinion, the Roman, Eastern Orthodox, Anglo-Catholic, and perhaps Lutheran traditions, have gone very far afield, trying to incorporate the notion of baptismal regeneration, into the entire concept of original sin, and an infant’s cleansing of it, via. some water ritual. Just a personal opinion.

I had an argument with someone I care about over the weekend. It’s not the end of the world, but it sucked. I wish it hadn’t happened. I wish I would have walked away before it escalated.

I’m getting mixed messages these days. When I blog about something provocative or controversial — Marcus Borg, Rob Bell, gay marriage — traffic spikes. Publishers and Patheos like such things. But I’ve got friends who’ve asked me to tone it down. They say that the work they’re doing is suffering because of the oversplash of my blog. These are people I respect and love, and I want their work to bear much fruit.

So I have been blogging in a more straightforward fashion. And less people are reading. I could show you the graph, but the fact is that readership is down 20% from the early months of this year and the controversial posts that you all know about. That’s fine, but it does make me wonder how much I should bank my identity in blogging. For instance, relatively few people will read this post, even though it’s among my most personal.

Another friend told me that some of what I blog about is beneath me. Blog about theology, she said, not about Rob Bell’s new TV show. She’s got a point, but I also know that I am finite. I can only come up with so much to say about theology each week, and I am also writing the most challenging book of my career. That’s taking a lot of my mental energies.

So, there you have it. I’d be keen to get any advice from you, dear readers. I do love to blog, and I love that I sense some electronic kinship with you. So thanks for reading, and thanks for your feedback.

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  • NathanShields

    I read this post, and I can see how the vicious circle spins. I do not always like the provocative posts, but I like being pushed and challenged to look at things differently. Tony, you do share what you think is important, so keep it up. I don’t know how you can please everybody, so don’t work too hard at it. I look forward to the next book. So thank you, and I’ll keep reading.

    • Thanks, Nathan. I’m definitely not trying to please everyone. But I am trying to nurture a relationship with readers who seem to resonate with what I write. Those who come here just to throw brickbats at me don’t concern me much. But when I turn off my friends, that concerns me.

  • Tony –

    The people who click when you write controversial things don’t care about you – they just want you to stimulate them. You are providing them a fix. If you don’t, they will find someone else to do it.

    The problem is, you have made a living being a stimulant pusher. Your identity is such. So, what would a kinder, gentler, more straightforward Tony look like? How would that Tony make a living? How would that Tony get validation, if not that people are talking about him?

    I don’t know, and ultimately, that is something you have to figure out.

    Remember, though, that the people who love you – the real you, not the internet version of you – have your back, and would love you if you were the auto body and fender guy at Jake’s Garage.

    Your friend,


    • Hugh, I don’t think it’s validation I’m look for, per se. I’m looking to catalyze important conversations — at least conversations that I think are important. It’s not really about making a living, either. It’s trying to find a way to be an 8 in the world without getting abandoned by my friends.

  • Liz Gordon Meade

    One thought….
    you wrote <> . When this happens, try, instead, to write a simple theological reflection. Some of your best stuff comes from routine encounters!

  • Ben Howard

    I’ve always loved your thoughts on theology. Even if that means maybe you have fewer posts, I would love to read more of that. I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoyed your ebook on the atonement.

  • Yeah…I hear you. It’s a shitty problem, Tony. When I post something scandalous (encouraged by ratings of some kind), it often comes across as disingenuous whether or not I want it to. We all know Teh Intertubes is driven by The Shiny Scandal whether that be a theological cage match or some young singers sexual exploits. We like conflict. That’s what draws us. Beyond that is the real crap shoot. People aren’t always engaging my ideas but the conflict around them.

    Anyway, best of luck to you, man. You sow a tough row.

    • Thanks, Tripp.

      • Sho nuff, Tony.

      • Oh, for what it’s worth, I’m a 4 with a 5 wing. I observe your conversations and secretly wish I were as special as you are and that people would pay homage to my Extreme Specialness. 😉

    • Good word, Tripp. I do think that people such as yourself and Tony (and a host of others) can use that to stimulate a better conversation. I know that for me, some of the most growth I’ve come across has been in listening to the conversation that springs up around some of these posts when fantastic authors reframe the questions or controversy in a helpful way and brilliant commenters who engage the posts in a helpful, if critical way.

      • To be clear, I receive little to no traffic compared to Brother Tony here. I’m a lurker everywhere. Ha! But part of that is because I eschew the scandal when I can. My blog has often been a personal letter to my friends. That keeps traffic very low. If I get 100 readers in a day, I’ve done well. So, though I try to do what you suggest, my impact is minimal at best. Tony has a bigger pulpit here. And it intrigues me that he receives a 20% drop when he doesn’t actively pick a fight. Says a lot about us as an audience, no?

  • jeskastkeat

    Want to know why I read your blog today? Your tweet specified your enneagram 8-ness. As a fellow 8, I check in and know I can “play” directly and honestly w/o filter.

    I enjoy theological musings, books you are reading, trends you are noticing in the ecclesiastical circles you are running in. Controversy is fun, sure(!), but not why I want to read your stuff. You can also write a blog post about the incredible Jes and Jim Kast-Keat and our ministries in the Collegiate Church when you come out, I’m just sayin’ :).

    Peace and Joy, Tony!

    • Eights unite!

    • And, Jes, how about that video above? Hilarious, right?

      • jeskastkeat

        Yes. I just told my colleague “It’s so much better when I lead certain meetings because I’m competent and move things along.” Thankfully I can be unfiltered with him.

  • I keep you in my RSS despite being turned off by a few of the controversies earlier in the year. I don’t always read every word of every post, I rarely comment, but I know you’re a voice on the side of Christianity where I happen to reside. I think it’s important to keep voices like yours on my radar, even when I’m not actively engaging with the discourse all the time. I think every (popular) blogger I read has gone through this sort of identity moment – you’re right on track! lol 🙂 If the blog is meant to support your publishing efforts (keep patheos/publisher happy) then the controversy/trigger posts continue. If the blog is your personal space to do your personal theology thing, then the straightforward theology posts continue. But then maybe Patheos can’t stay your host. You already know you can’t please everyone, so who do you want to please, and what does that mean for the other constituents?

    • Glad to have you as a reader, even if you’re sometimes turned off.

  • Roger Flyer

    It may be that blog posts` (by their very nature?) are musings that diminish a theologian’s influence. Might it bb better to build your ‘audience share’ through the publishing of books, and get your daily social feedback through Facebook?
    Just a thought.
    The author of my favorite academic theology blog
    ( Ben Myers, often writes short essays, stories or invites others to post things that tell ‘the truth slant’.

    I know your style is more direct and contrarian (Enneagram 8) and you have built your audience this way, but it might be time to reconsider the method to your madness?

    • I don’t think that’s necessarily true, Roger. Look at Richard Beck, for instance. The dude blogs some awesome theology, and he’s not on Facebook or Twitter.

      Personally, I kind of despise the proprietary nature of Facebook. I cannot believe how everyone gives FB pictures of their kids, for instance. I think we will all come to regret how much content we’ve given to FB.

      • Roger Flyer

        My point is that your blog may be conflating your needs for social networking with your theological ‘career’… and hence possibly confusing your primary ‘call’… But it’s your call 🙂

        • I think that’s likely true. I want to be taken seriously as a theologian, but I also want to be in the mix of the everyday. I’m not NT Wright. So that leaves me trying to discern my own vocation in the theological mix…

          • Roger Flyer

            You are likely ready for spiritual direction.

  • ogunholder

    As an Enneagram 9 I say ‘Chill out…just do you.’

    • Mich Barry


  • LDWilson

    Tony, thanks for working through these questions in such a public forum. As a 7 who’s suddenly discovering her 8-wing, I appreciate any insights into how to manage this new proclivity to stir things up!
    I’ve long appreciated your blogged insights – especially the ones that are truly insightful, rather than “derived” as responses to other folks’ work. You’ve got a lot of great ideas that stand well on their own. Controversies do stir up readership, but they probably won’t serve what you’re ultimately after.
    I have to believe that the way we talk about these things really matters. If we say we believe that God is love – and that God’s love went so far as to become embodied, then surely our words (even the blogged ones!) should concretely reflect the tangible love we’re talking about?!

  • Craig

    Don’t avoid the controversial just because it turns some people off. This isn’t a communion service.

    What is “blogging in a more straightforward fashion”?

    • I don’t try to bait for traffic. When I write “Where Are the Women?” almost a year ago, I truly had no idea that it would strike such a nerve. I was completely unprepared for that.

      However, having blogged since 2004, I’m usually pretty aware of how much attention any particular post will receive. What I mean by straightforward is that I’m trying to think about traffic less than I have in the past.

      But traffic is not all bad. It’s also an indication of what people want to read.

      • Craig

        Tony, you are also (mainly?) providing an engaging forum for open, critical discussion of issues that are usually just “expounded” to silenced audiences, or discussed in highly circumscribed peer groups.

        As every teacher knows, the skill of provoking a lively discussion is a valuable one.

        • Right, I totally agree. Even when I teach in the classroom, this is my pedagogy. See bell hooks, who’s greatly influenced me in this.

  • I love your blog, Tony, warts and all. It’s one of the few blogs out there that engages issues and controversy in (what appears to me) an honest way. And you address issues that a lot of people don’t. And even if I don’t agree with your positions, your posts generate conversations that are worth reading.

    I’d say write what most naturally comes to you to write about. I’d LOVE to hear about some of the issues you are wrestling with on this book that is “the most difficult of your career.” (5 with a 4 wing here)

    Critics are gonna criticize. And you’re likely gonna engage them. I love reading people participating in that sort of discussion, because some genuinely great ideas come out of that.

    Leave the always non-controversial stuff to the Jon Acuffs of the world. I think you have other, deeper, harder work to do.

    • Yes, it’s clear that people don’t come here to read fluff or funny church signs. Others have the corner on that market. I appreciate your comment. I will write some more about this book.

  • As a fellow blogger, and one not affiliated with a site like Patheos — I wonder whether Patheos, which is a for-profit venture pushes its bloggers to produce. Since I don’t get any ad revenue, I can publish what I want. So, I guess the question has to do with where the pressure comes from. Hope this makes sense!

    • I can only speak for myself, but I have never gotten any pressure to write high-traffic posts from Patheos. Not once. They do pay me according to the traffic I generate, but it’s honestly not enough to make the money much of an incentive. It’s surely more of my own internal, competitive drive to always be better. It used to be for grades, when I was in school. Now it’s for traffic.

      • Tony — just curious about how Patheos worked. I have the same feelings about my posts — always can use more visits — and I’ve noticed since Google Reader went down, so did my visits!

        • Yes, the loss of Google Reader really hurt my traffic as well.

  • It’s funny, Jesse, but I think the same. I sometimes wish that a newcomer would dig through my 3,000 posts and read more of what I’ve written on the subject than the post that initially drew them.

    I do think it’s fascinating that those of us who blog daily will be leaving a record of extraordinary magnitude. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words on this blog, far more than I’ll ever publish in all of my books.

  • KentonS

    Yours is one of maybe 4 or 5 blogs that I read every post of. Lack of controversy here is not going to drive me off, but to be honest, lack of controversy has led me to spend less time on other blogs. So I believe you when you say dropping those posts mean losses of traffic. I like the stuff about Rob Bell and Oprah. It takes the edge off some of the more serious stuff, so I say leave it in.

    How much can you elaborate on how the work of others suffers because of what you post? Nobody wants that, but nobody wants your work to suffer either, right?

    • All I can really say is that some long-time friends have recently distanced themselves from me because my “brand” is “radioactive.” It seems that others in the progressive Christian movement have taken a dislike to me because 1) I’ve criticized someone they like, or 2) they think that progressives should be always-nice.

      I don’t take this lightly. I’m honestly trying to figure out how to navigate it. I talk to Courtney about it daily, and I’ve talked to many others. Now I’m asking those of you in the community to readers to assist me in navigating it.

      • KentonS

        Those two examples are not causing the work of “they” to suffer.

        That’s not saying you should be quick to criticize nor that you shouldn’t strive for kindness in your choice of words, but I appreciate your willingness to call people out on their b.s.

  • davehuth


    Because I’m a Mennonite, I *love* conflict, and *hate* war. I don’t know a lot about the enneagram, but suspect #8-ness is related to the ways I understand and value how your mode can sometimes generate conflict, even though I hate it when your blog draws people into what feels more war-like (I mean rhetorically of course).

    You’re probably wondering how I suppose a person can make the fine distinctions between these things and produce conversations that encourage people toward one and not the other. I’m sorry I’m not wise or skilled enough to know how to do anything other than over-err on the side of an over-abundance of caution — a possible strength that can easily tip into weakness common among Mennos. And probably ill-suited to your personality. Thus, I’m letting you down in your request for helpful feedback…

    Your ideas, and the original ways you put together the ideas of others, entered my life at an important time and plays a very important role in the development of how I think about and experience the world. I always treasure when you blog along those lines, whether it’s about Rob Bell or the posited resurrection of Jesus.

    I’ve also been impressed by our few personal interactions and some key interactions between you and others I’ve witnessed. The result is that I care about you, so interactions online that draw vitriol toward you (I mean personal attacks/dismissals/weird scapegoating, not genuine topical disagreements or arguments about ideas) really stress me out. *A lot.*

    Once I heard you say that the way communities are best understood and organized is for them to be “radically local.” I hope the comments you’re getting from us are a way of finding what that looks like online. What’s a “local” description of a gathering of people and their conversations you want to host here at your blog? I hope the feedback you get about this can help you find your way toward this, because I like your blog (and books) so much and want you to feel good about continuing your contributions to the thinking of lots of people.

    • Yes, Dave. These responses — like yours — are a type of radical locality, albeit an electronic one. I always appreciate your defensiveness on my behalf. 🙂 Seriously, your private correspondences to me have more than once helped me fall asleep at night.

    • Michael Jordan

      as a friend of Dave’s (and I’d like to imagine we could be friends too, if we ever met), I’d just like to echo one of his thoughts, at least as best I understand: I value this blog when it feels local, like you are being you-in-solidarity-and-community-with-us. I get frustrated about what you write about lgbt issues because I sense that I would like you if we got together, and your ideas cause me real genuine cognitive dissonance. I cheer mentally when you write about the importance of the physical resurrection because my cognitive dissonance decreases, and I feel “allowed” to trust and like you. Either way, I like this blog in those times, even when I disagree with you.

      I begin to tune out, however, when I sense this blog is about your brand, carving out a place for you to share thoughts that are not really yours–or stated in a way your best self wouldn’t share them–so that you can sell books or increase page views. I feel it especially because I feel that the sum total of those efforts is just to arouse the righteous indignation of people who disagree with me on lgbt issues. There’s plenty of that righteous indignation already.

      • I appreciate the thoughts, Michael, and the honesty that you tend to like reading more on the issues on which we agree. 🙂

        However, do you think it’s irresponsible or untoward for me to use this blog as a place to announce a new book or promote a conference? It seems to me that those activities are justified in a platform that I’ve built.

        I guess I can’t think of a time that I’ve written something here that are thoughts that are not really mine, as you say. Can you point to one of those? Seriously, I’d like to know when I come off that way.

        • Michael Jordan

          Hi Tony–forgive me. I don’t think it’s untoward or irresponsible to post about your books/conferences. You know you better than I know you, that’s for sure, so only you can say when you’re being authentic. I really reacted negatively to RHE’s recent post about branding–something like “You don’t hate me, you hate my brand.” I thought to myself, “Wait a minute, I thought your blog was you being you out loud for all of our benefit…now I find out that it’s not really you but a brand, and that the real you is hidden and untouchable.” So–rightly or wrongly–there are times I read your blog and feel like, “This is Tony, this is what he wants to say.” And there are times–again, most often when I read posts which simply dismiss a traditional Christian sexual ethic–where I think, “Oh, this is Tony shoring up his base, reasserting his brand so he can continue to sell his brand to them.” Again, I could be way off base.

          • Gotcha. That’s fair. I think that anyone in a postmodern age has to admit that me and my brand are inseparable.

            • Michael Jordan

              thanks. Incidentally, seeing that my comment got a downvote (and being very sensitive to criticism), please know I only meant to be respectful and constructive. Sorry if that didn’t come across.

              • Well, I just gave it an up vote. 🙂

            • Craig

              I associate “branding” with Madison Avenue, corporate advertising. But there’s an academic analogue to brand-pushing that’s entirely honorable. When a specialist in a given field explores and advances the resources of a given theory, intellectual framework, or school of thought (such are the metaphorical “brands”), this typically serves the perfectly good and reputable goals of inquiry.

  • Granted I’ve only spent one weekend with you, but I always thought the appeal of your blog and its tone, mix of controversial and thoughtful, sounded like who you are in person. It’s authentic, in other words. I’d say, keep up what you’ve been doing so well these past years.

    • Jason, your blog can be pretty biting. How do you deal with that?

      • Well, I put cynical in the blog title so…disclaimer, but good question. Maybe, I don’t deal with it? Not actually sure now that you’ve asked. Part of me is always assuming the primary audience that matters knows there’s more to the bite. I also think I subconsciously do it by writing friendlier posts on marriage, kids etc. So I suppose I do exactly what you’re contemplating/discerning. And if pushing back against Marcus Borg counts as stirring up controversy….keep the wrist strong. As you said, some conversations need to be started and can only be done so by engaging another.

  • Nathan Wheeler

    The reason I subscribe and read your blog is what you write about (most of the time) interests me. So I say write about what interests you because it seems to be interesting to lots of us.

  • Craig

    This is a round-table for critical, open discussion. The light, amusing, gossipy stuff is your coffee and donuts. They’re a means, not an end. In a veggie plate, you’ll miss the sugar, grease, and caffeine.

    • I like that. Thanks. I don’t think anyone can eat only veggies. I can’t. That’s why, honestly, I can’t read every word of every Richard Beck post. Even though he’s pretty much my favorite blogger.

      • KentonS

        He’s one of the 4 or 5 I mentioned as reading every post. I lied. That “Fridays with Benedict” thing gets to be too much.

  • As a frequent reader, rare comment’er, my thoughts are ditch the bait and switch (i think I even remember some posts that had Rob’s name in it that wasn’t actually about Rob) and fluff stuff and go after the controversies you feel strongest about and feel like you can add to it. I thought the Borg stuff was good honest disagreeable theologically relevant stuff. Stick to that, ditch the ‘for the ratings fluff.’

    • What was so nice about the Borg stuff is that, for once, it was an idea that went viral. Yes, it had our names attached to it, and some slammed me for having the gall to criticize a liberal icon, but in general people were jazzed about discussing the actual ideas.

      • Exactly. I loved how you engaged him, but also engaged the idea and had some decent back and forth, plus it even inspired further posts by other bloggers on the subject. I think that could be a real nitch to serve to bring up a theological concept in some kind of controversial way. At least over the years those types of posts stick with me the most.

        • Steven Kurtz

          Yes; and: the model of the respectful back and forth, open disagreement, reasoned debate, if nothing else, is worth the effort. We desperately need this model. And all the more so when it’s an “in house” debate – showing that ideological monotone is not the goal of theological conversation either.

      • warning: language about to ensue…
        “some slammed me for having the gall to criticize [Borg]” Holy fuck, that is some stupid ass shit right there. I think you were measured and very respectful toward Borg in those posts. I mean, come on. You were the very model of a modern major cliche in those posts: bending over backwards to be respectful to Borg. Plus, since when are “icons” beyond reproach?? To paraphrase my third favorite Minnesotan, Lucas Davenport, fuck a bunch of Borg sycophants.

        As for the blog in general, what everybody else has said. (Or at least all the smart ones.) Keep on keepin’ on. Be yourself, because you rock.
        We’ll be reading. And, you know, maybe even once in a (long) while, commenting.

        • Yeah, Dave, I was uncomfortable writing as much as I did about how much I appreciate Borg’s scholarship, but it seemed that would be needed if I were to be heard clearly.

  • DanLambert

    Tony, I’ve been both a fan and critic of yours since Postmodern Youth Ministry. As a former youth min prof, I found that book refreshingly honest and required all my students to read it, even long after it was “popular.” I continue to follow your posts almost 15 years later because I think your ideas are relevant, your questions are provocative, and your contributions to Christian thinking matter. My own ministry and personal theological journeys parallel yours in many ways, and I enjoy what you write. Do not back away from controversy because of some insecure “friends.” Being nice too often means being weak. This is not a time for weak theology. There are way too many theological issues to ponder to say that there isn’t always something to blog about. Share more of your soul. Share tidbits of what you’re writing. Stop checking your blog traffic numbers. Be Tony, not what your friends, colleagues, or readers want you to be. Being Tony is what gained you a following in the first place.

    • Thanks, Dan. I totally agree, this is not a time for weak theology. You’re a “fan and critic.” What are you critical of? The ideas, or the tone?

      • DanLambert

        Almost never the tone. I don’t always agree with your ideas or conclusions. If it was a major issue, I wouldn’t follow you anymore. You have been prolific enough as an author and speaker that you have a great many critics. But when I first read PMYM and came across the idea that “Christianity marginalizes any culture it inhabits,” I was engaged and wanted to learn more. You provoke more than enough critical thinking to keep me coming back to read more, regardless of my critiques.

  • Tony, you’re one of my favorites. I’m here reading every day.

    Here’s one of the things I’ve always admired about you: you speak your mind, damn the consequences. In the academic world where I live, as do you, that “speaking your mind” is a rare thing. And being calm and reasonable and scholarly in tone is often a euphemism, if not of cowardice than institutional complicity. (Here I’m looking in the mirror.)

    For example, your passionate outspokenness in support for LGBT persons is something that I’ve always admired. More, you’ve taken personal and professional hits for that stand. You’ve suffered in tangible ways because of your love for others. I can’t imagine anything being more Christian than that. It’s a saintly, martyrological act. It’s dying to give life to others.

    Which is to say, I don’t know how you balance all this, personally and professionally, but I’m a huge fan and have been humbled and chastened by your witness and moral courage. Blog stats might go up or down. But no one can take that witness away.

    • Richard, that means more than I can say. I don’t know how you blog so consistently about such deep ideas, but I envy that in you. So glad to have you as a friend and colleague.

    • Zach Lind

      I read this and I immediately pumped my fist into the air.

  • Karen Gonzalez

    Tony, I’m a fellow 8, and I have enjoyed reading your blog most when you are championing causes or people and/or defending them from attacks. That being said,as an 8, I also have a very good bullshit meter and can tell when you’re just trying to stir up controversy for its own sake. I love this entry because you show real vulnerability and reveal your care and concern for your friends.

  • rjsm

    Hey Tony, completely agree with most of the comments: be you! And ditto Richard Beck – just re-read that one a few times for some encouragement.

    And maybe we don’t know the details of the arguments with friends, but I would just say this. As a reader (I read them all) I’m just a human with a busy life of my own and I don’t know even know how to market to myself.

    I don’t even know what I want.

    Somedays I’m tired and want a stupid YouTube video link.
    Somedays I’m in the mood for a fight.
    Somedays I want some thick theological syrup.
    Somedays I’m tired of hearing about LGBT, because everyone is talking about it.
    Somedays I want to be jealous of Rob Bell.
    Somedays I’m sick of everyone talking about Rob Bell (and I think Rob Bell is too.)
    Somedays I want to be mad at Driscoll.
    Somedays I want to hear a Driscoll sermon (just kidding – no I don’t).
    Somedays I want to read how messed up Christianity is and
    Somedays I just want someone to tell me that things are going to be okay and we’re all doing something of worth.

    I mean, who knows? Who knows what any of us want? We’re all trying to do this life the best we can and sometimes we had a bad bowl of soup and we vent and you think we want you to re-write your whole blog.

    Sometimes it’s us way more than you.

    Which is why you just have to write what you’re passionate about and see where it goes. But I think we’ll all be around, even if we’re quiet sometimes…

    So just keep it up!

    • Great point! This blog is probably just as schizoid as I am!

  • Joshua A Watson


    I am a former Progressive Christian actually journeying to the Eastern Orthodox church. You and I probably disagree on several things, however, I read you daily and believe you are an important voice in the Christian world. Men and women like you, Mclaren, Bell, Tickle, etc. opened me to a world bigger than my non-denominational evangelical bubble I grew up in the South. Your book on spiritual disciplines was especially helpful on the beginnings of my journey that is close to 10 years so far beginning with reading Velvet Elvis and A New Kind of Christian.

    All that to say:
    Keep writing here.
    Keep prodding those of us who you may disagree with.
    Ask the hard questions.

    Thanks again for all that your writings have helped me.

    • Thanks, Joshua. And as an Orthodox, I think you will find much to agree with in my forthcoming atonement book.

  • Danny Jones

    I have long admired your work, but I think people in general are tired of asking questions that are answered indirectly with more questions in the name of intellectual stimuli.
    I believe that people want answers and the problem I have had with the “emergent-type” is there is clearly a lack of answers. I think you, more than most, have offered legitimate answers, but I think folks have a opinion of you b/c of your association with many others who have failed to do what you have done.
    I know that your blog must be handled (at least in some way) as a business. Any business owner wants people in their store buying their products. I have bought (all) of your product and will continue to do so, but I think the blog needs to take a more practical approach.
    The LGBT issue, for example, is so overblown and the topic has been dissected from every possible angle. People have chosen their sides and will not likely change their view(s) based on a blog post.
    As a Youth Pastor, I appreciate good theological discussions, but I also would like to see more practicality from you. Ministry is difficult & I would love to hear from you about how you’ve been in ministry for as long as you have. (Just a suggestion! lol)
    When I think about your blog some of the posts that have impacted me the most have been, believe it or not, your bankruptcy and foreclosure. Yes, I know that’s strange but those posts and similar posts about your divorce and the like, grabbed my attention and has subsequently, pushed me to support you through purchasing your books.
    I want to hear from Tony. I want to hear your struggles, I want to hear the day-to-day of Tony Jones more b/c I think when people see you as a person they will understand some of the heavier things you post about. They will at least look at you as a man pursuing God and not just a man in a bull ring with a long stick poking and trying to rouse strong opinions and anger. (I don’t see you like that FYI)
    But, in the end, do what you feel is right. I mean, after all, the Vikings have gone through many changes throughout the years without losing you as a fan. This blog is no different. It may change, but you will have fans regardless.

    • Thanks much, Danny. I hear you. I have tried to actually answer questions forthrightly and practically, especially because I know that’s a criticism of some of my peers.

      Regarding the practicality, it’s harder for me now, as I’m not involved in day-to-day ministry. What I am involved in day-to-day is parenting, a new marriage, the aftermath of a brutal divorce, writing, coaching baseball, hunting, etc. You’re in the minority in these comments asking for more writing about my own journey, but I think you have a point. It’s something I will work on.

  • Gabriel Stoutimore

    My 2 cents is probably worth even less on here, but I appreciate what you’ve written here. I’ve always had a deep appreciation of your work, and “Divine Intervention” was one of the most foundational books I’ve read for my personal/spiritual life. I don’t know you at all on a personal basis, and the way I “know” you through your work is extremely positive. You ask important questions, stimulate important discourse, and have a keen academic mind. There is no doubt about those things.

    On the twitter and blogosphere, I fear that some of us might get the wrong end of the stick from you. On the internet, it’s hard to tell the difference between one who is asking provocative and important questions that sometimes run amuck of positions by other voices and trolling for the sake of internet traffic, or poking sarcastic fun at other writers/thinkers. None of us are there with you when you write. We can’t hear vocal inflections or read you in joint context with our personal knowledge, as we largely lack such experience. So, as one who may have thought the worst about your intent in some of those moments (i.e. Rob Bell, Marcus Borg), I apologize for the assumption.

    What you have to say is important to lots of people. I look forward to engaging with it for years to come.

    • No need to apologize, Gabriel. I have definitely come off as overly snarky at times, and overly defensive at others. I think I’m pretty good at the medium of blogging, but I’m far from perfect. Thanks.

  • I love tony jones and your blog. I think you should blog about popular topics with your zesty flare. Why? Because it is often what plenty of other people are thinking but don’t say. Instead we retweet you and say we don’t agree with all of it.

    • Tripp is my model for all things #zesty.

  • Anne

    Well hell, I had no idea what an Enneagram was and saw a post about someone moving from a 7 to an 8 and all I could think of was Scientology. And then a comment about Postmodern Youth ministry, did I miss the modern Youth Ministry? Tony, this is a little self indulgent and needy. Just write, blog, vlog, whatever. If people read it, great, if not, who are you writing for anyway? I wish I could be more specific but I’ve just found Patheos and am at somewhat of a loss as to what to make of it. Maybe it’s a place for theological intellectuals. I’m just looking for something that speaks to me. Anyway, as a very casual, sometimes reader of this website, I like your stuff.

  • Ok… so… Someone in the thread already used the food analogy, but it’s a good one. It might be true (on one level) that blogging about Rob Bell’s new TV show is “beneath you.” It’s like those frozen taquitos and guacamole. They’re not healthy. They’re not hard to make, but mmmm taquitos. I had a wise pastor mentor once say that preaching is like serving food “Sometimes you feed the people prime rib, sometimes PB&J.” I think your blog might have to be like that, especially if one of your goals is to post regularly. It’s just not possible to chef up gourmet, nutritious, and complex flavors all the darn time. Here are my favorite things on here:

    1. Current/trendy/hot things in the progressive Christian world. You are one of my sources for what’s going on. I don’t keep up on Twitter as I would like, and I don’t get to hang in the Progressive Christian circles as much as I would like to, so I appreciate it when this blog points out “Hey, everyone’s talking about *this* (even if it’s somehow controversial)
    2. Posts that point to (or summarize) research about trends in the mainline church / youth ministry / church and culture / etc.
    3. Series posts that take on layers of richness over time… (blogging through a book or through a topic, etc.)

    • That is super helpful, Traci, both the food analogy and the list!

  • I haven’t been reading lately, but don’t take it personally: I haven’t been reading much of anything lately!

  • Geoff Broughton

    FWIW, as a fellow Fuller grad from the mid 90s, and occasional reader i have wondered out loud about similar issues – my thoughts earlier this year I recorded here:

  • Ben

    As 5w4 I blog for an audience of 1 (me) and I’m surprised/pleased when someone/anyone gets something out something I have posted. Obviously you blog for a much bigger audience. By which I mean you want/need a bigger audience. You are lucky/blessed that you get this thing you want/need. But I’d still suggest you would be off focusing on the audience of 1 – write what you need to hear yourself say. Some will follow others will opt out but to paraphrase the west wing you need to get to the point you can say “this is more important than my blog stats I need to speak”

  • Jodi-Renee Giron

    One of many things I’ve always admired and loved about you the person + you the theologian/writer is your ability to be candid, funny, transparent, and carefully thought out. I love that you present your stance without apology, with conviction, with intelligence, with an eye to mystery, and with the occasional expression of personal angst over pet-peeves poked, world-views that oppress, ideas that would keep the church an inefficient presence in the world. With Tony the Theologian, what you see is what you get. As someone still bouncing back from spiritual abuse frosted in saccharin sweet good manners (“death by cupcake” – Bono) and lots of scenes from the yet-to-be-filmed, post-modern version of “Saved,” I appreciate this deeply.

    Your theological writing is the mainstay of why I visit this blog, but your writing about Christian culture keeps me somewhat towards the center. I have little to no patience with the sub-culture and Christian celebrity. Your occasional blogs on the topic give me some alternate ways of thinking about it other than “LET IT BURN!!!!!! mwaahahahahaaaaa….”

    As an Enneagram 4, I say: stay true to your authentic self. Be bold, deep, pointed, off the beaten path, thoughtful, provocative, prophetic, engaged. There are many of us for whom finding those voices in the Church gives us the desire (and the permission) to stay.

  • Nelson Floyd IV

    I find Tony utterly ridiculous on many levels as I find most misogynistic, aggressive men who constantly demand respect from those who confront.

    • Jay Bakker

      Nelson, Your critique does nothing to contribute to the conversation. If you find Tony so ‘utterly ridiculous on so many levels’ why do you waste your time commenting on his blog? These types of personally aggressive comments are a prime example of the Christian left cannibalizing itself.

  • Thanks for reading, Stephen. Yes, contrary to popular belief, I am a real person. 🙂

  • It seems a wise thing to listen to people you “respect and love” and those for whom you “want their work to bear much fruit.”

    Chasing hits and comments is a surefire way to end up being the slightly Christian version of BuzzFeed. What I’ve called the “dangerous dance of controversy and communication” is tempting but in the end unsustainable. Google Analytics are no substitute for the leading of the Spirit.

    Wishing you well, and praying well too…


    • Yes, Dave, I am listening to them. And to the Spirit, I hope.

  • Gary in FL


    As far as the regeneration thing goes, no worries. My circles are different than yours. In mine you find people making assertions about baptismal regeneration with dogmatic certainty, and having to respond to others (chiefly baptists) who have just as much certainty that regeneration only occurs upon making one’s personal decision for Christ. It occurs to me the whole conniption fit only gets stupider when one realizes nobody can explain exactly what regeneration IS or WHAT EXACTLY is regenerated upon conversion. But if you can’t say what it essentially IS, why should it matter so much whether or when it did or didn’t happen? In my world, my question has a bit of edginess. Lutherans tilt toward ontological transformations.

    As far as your blog tone goes…. your’s is one of a handful of blogs I read every day, so I can honestly say you’re constantly giving me interesting things to think about. The tone never bothers me.

    Yes, you have friends and colleagues, whose opinions you care about, as do I in my world. But if Emergents/Progressives are keeping watch over each other to ensure no one wanders off the reservation, does that not elevate the needs/agenda of the “tribe” over the free/conscientious expression of opinion?

    • Yes, there is some of that going on, Gary. It’s disheartening. I had to leave the Facebook group of Emergent Village because I found the conversation there to be so mean-spirited and aggressive. From what I heard, my Marcus Borg posts last week stirred up much conversation there, and I’m guessing that most of it was not very kind toward me. That turn of events makes me sad.

  • tanyam

    I’m puzzled by what others are telling you. When they ask you to “tone it down” do they want you to change the topics you write about, or merely the “tone” — is it something about style? (And how on earth does your writing hurt their work?)
    I hope you won’t stop writing helpful critiques about things like Marcus Borg’s thought or less than adequate atonement theologies. But I can see that we might all need the reminder that not everyone here is a professional, academic theologian, and every time we take on someone like Borg,* we’re taking on someone others would say made them weep with joy and relief. That doesn’t mean don’t disagree though.
    I want to thank you for the helpful work you’ve offered over the years, and also offer two observations. First, there is something about the internet, or facebook in the aggregate — the fact that I can read 6 polemical pieces in a row, and not feel so good afterward. All are good, useful (can’t get enough of Rachel’s critiques of complementarianism!) but the full effect of an hour’s reading gives me some sort of spiritual heartburn. Not sure what to do about that, but it has to do with the too-muchness of the internet.
    Second, I want to thank you for not purposely adding to the general too-muchness. Never do I feel you posted something just to fill space. I want to beg bloggers– please don’t post your meals, photos of your redecorated kitchen, just stuff on your public blog/facebook page– lots of us are following you as strangers, and it takes time and mental space even to scroll through junk that doesn’t concern us. Its a matter of honoring your readers by not filling their box, and remembering that every hour they spend on the internet is an hour they don’t spend with their families, praying, or doing our own cooking/remodeling/exercise/photography and real-life friendmaking. So I hope you’re able to skip a week if you just don’t have anything to say. Happens.
    *Wonder if you read Tom Long’s critique of Borg in Preaching from Memory and Hope. Just in case you thought you were alone. . .

    • I have a lot of respect for Tom Long, but I have not read that. I’ll have to find a copy.

      Oddly, those who don’t like me or my tone — I mean, my friends and colleagues, not the Facebook haters — have not actually told me what to change, or how to be better. In fact, those who’ve delivered me these second-hand messages have said that they don’t quite know what’s going on. That’s why I’ve turned to the community of this blog for some advice, since you all are more in touch with my content and tone than just about anyone.

      • tanyam

        Besides Tom Long, there was also Luke Timothy Johnson’s takedown of Borg and the whole Jesus Seminary project in The Real Jesus.

  • Heather Haginduff

    That is beautifully vulnerable. And I read it. And we need both vulnerability and thought provoking controversy from you. You have been given both and you can give both.

  • Rebecca Trotter

    OK, I’m going to go a little deeper on ya here (sorry, it’s what I do). So you blog about things are controversial and traffic is up, you blog about the things which are meaningful and traffic dips. It’s predictable, but is it something you should allow to guide you? Controversy and outrage lead to more success because that’s the world’s way. As opposed to the Christian way which has been known to bring ridicule, rejection and occassionally death.

    Now, I’m not saying that Christians should never peddle in controversy and outrage. We need people to speak out against the Driscolls and Pearls and other assorted crackpots of the church. I’m sure it’s what some people are called to. But the real question is whether it’s something you are called to personally. Or are you indulging in it because it’s easy and entertaining and leads to sucess which you value and derive self-worth from?

    One of the ideas I return to frequently in my own writing is that we don’t follow Jesus’ actual teachings very often because, well, they are filled with bad ideas which will doom you to failure and suffering. Don’t resist the evil man, seek first the kingdom, turn the other cheek, don’t judge and all that. Dumb ideas, every one. If you’re interested in sucess and comfort, at any rate.

    But if what you’re most interested in is participating in establishing the Kingdom of God, you have a choice to make: do the dumb things Jesus says, pay the price and reap your rewards from the hand of God. Or do you do smart things (like stirring up controversy), enjoy the benefits and reap sucess from the world which doesn’t really want to change that much anyhow.

    Part of that does go along with where you are getting your identity from: God or something else – like attention, being popular, etc. For a Christian, that’s a dangerous game to play because God is quite willing, should other routes fail, to remove whatever it is you are depending on for your identity from your life entirely. He’d rather have you suffer that loss than continue taking your life and identity from something which isn’t the source of all life.

    I think that a lot of professional Christians hope that they have found a way to reap the rewards of both the world and God’s kingdom. What could be better than receiving worldly success and attention by teaching or working for God? Win-win! It’s a tempting proposition. But the reality is that it’s an either or thing. You have to give up one to get the other. It could be that the discomfort you are experiencing is God nudging you to make your choice. I know that’s an awful lot of weight to place on a blog, but your identity and sense of self-worth is a lot of weight to put on a blog as well.

    • Craig

      we don’t follow Jesus’ actual teachings very often because, well, they are filled with bad ideas which will doom you to failure and suffering.

      Herein lies what could be radical and refreshingly unique (and blog worthy). But there’s ample room, within this ideal, for being a holy asshole. Think of your prophets. You can’t honestly believe that Tony Jones presents himself as more of an asshole than John the Baptist. Not even close.

  • Elisabeth M

    Eh, just write what you want. That’s the point of blogging. It’s free-form and doesn’t have to be a big deal.

    “Beneath” you? gag me. If it’s interesting, it’s worth writing about.

    Your identity? You’ve already got a brand. The least self-important thing you can do now is just to be yourself and not worry about your blog identity.

    Your blog is hurting other people’s work? WTF? Okay, just by existing, we all impact each other, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. I step on bugs sometimes accidentally. I’m not going to stop leaving my house about it.

    Be respectful. Write what you want. Don’t worry about yourself. You’ll do fine.

  • Matt Cleaver

    Tony, I’ve read your blog since 2004. I will follow your blog wherever it goes. Blogspot,, BeliefNet, Patheos, wherever. I’m here because I think you have something interesting to say. If you do want to blog on something, make sure you have something insightful to say. If it happens to be the controversial hot topic of the moment, so be it. I don’t know what your other readers think, but I’d rather you post something profound and worth reading once a week than something everyday just because.

    Whether any of that translates into dollars and cents, you have to decide. Are you trying to build a big audience that drives advertising revenue or a tribe that values what you have to say? Those are two different goals.

    • I’ll tell you exactly what I’m trying to do, Matt. I’m trying to engage and encourage readers like you: those who want to think about something new, those who are pastors and writers themselves, those who enjoy robust theological conversation. In other words, readers who like this blog on a daily basis and will probably like my books, too. Although it’s an adrenaline rush, I’m not interested in making a splash with a controversial post that brings in thousands of new readers who never come back.

      Thanks for reading…since Blogspot!

  • Lausten North

    107 comments on something you said few would read, hmm. Glad I checked in today, I’m not a daily reader anymore, but it’s not you it’s me. I prefer the controversial, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. And I’m trying to improve my approach to people so conflict leads to something valuable. I see people trying to be nice to everyone and not contributing in any substantial fashion, but if I make everything an argument no one wants to bring up anything but the weather.

    I find it strange that the two things that are said to be the most important, voting and our faith, are the two things you are not supposed to talk about in polite company.

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