Convicting Myself

Listening to John MacArthur on Christian radio today inspired me to write this post. The gist of the segment was an encouragement to study to the point of being able to teach the subject to another. A Biblical study, of course.

If all Christians did this, each one would obviously have stronger Bible knowledge. Iron could more readily sharpen iron.

One of the points he made was that more thorough research would lead to more Holy Spirit conviction. I can attest to this. Some of the articles I’ve written here on CrossWise have resulted in self-conviction. To my shame, I must confess some have been short-lived. That means I must study Scripture even more!

Another point he made was that you should know your subject so well that you could use simple words to teach it.  At the least you should be able to keep jargon to a minimum.

This led me to a recurring question in my mind: Are my articles written in such a way that they are too much for the average reader? Sometimes I think they are.

In my quest to learn about a given subject for posting, I usually spend a lot of time on the research. I suspect, much more than most. A goal at this blogsite has been to provide high quality information on the subject at hand.1 Am I doing so at the expense of readability?

But then again, one of my goals is to induce readers to learn more about the material. For example, on a subject such as Christology—one integral to our faith—the writer must necessarily go into detail and use terminology that may be unfamiliar to some readers. So, I feel that if were to write too simply some of the finer points, important ones, would not be well-conveyed.

Yet I have another goal: I want to write better. I want to write at a higher level than I did last year and the year before that one. I want to continue to grow in this regard.

Part of this goal is to increase my vocabulary and to write using more linguistic devices such as alliteration, puns, humor (to provide levity), etc. On the former, I usually provide a hyperlink to a dictionary definition for less common words. On the latter, the intent is to make the content more enjoyable (though I’m aware overuse can deter instead).

I’m looking for feedback on all this. Don’t worry, you’re not going to hurt my feelings. After a year like the one we’ve had, I’ve learned to be more resilient. And I don’t think I was thin-skinned before that.

Am I too verbose, long-winded? Too boring or technical? Are readers even reading this far?

And, please, I’m not searching for accolades, either. I want honest feedback. Thanks in advance.

______

1 That’s not to say the articles don’t have room for improvement. And that’s not to say I’ve not made some errors. (Correct me, please!) Or that there’s not room for disagreement, discussion on controversial topics. (Let’s discuss!) Also, this statement necessarily excludes those short blog posts interspersed for a change of pace or for humor—or when I’m short on ideas, inspiration or time.

25 Responses to Convicting Myself

  1. Jim says:

    I’m surprised that MacArthur spent so much time during his most recent sermon called Proof of the Preeminence of Christ conflating theophanies/christophanies in the OT with regular angelic activity. THE Angel of the Lord was one of the names the Logos was called as he interacted with humanity, but that didn’t make him a mere angel, but was the primary messenger acting solely on behalf of the Father.

    Like

  2. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I hadn’t listened to that one, so I cannot comment. And I haven’t sufficiently studied the OT occurrences of THE or an Angel of the Lord to offer concurrence or rebuttal.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jim says:

    To your post, I enjoy the more scholarly way you convey your thoughts and research. I think it shows rigour (especially the footnotes) without being too dense to understand.

    And then you chuck in some jazz, Killing Joke and Daffy Duck clips, so pretty balanced I’d say. Keep it up is my 2c!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Craig says:

    I appreciate the feedback. Now, of course, the other things you mention (your 2nd paragraph) are in the comments section rather than the articles proper.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jim says:

    True, as opposed to discrete posts. I think the way we write is quite individualistic and our style is an expression of who we are. I enjoy topics that challenge my presuppotions or personal positions on matters. Since I think mine are considered and as well thought out as I can manage, I want the challenge to be the same. Hence I gravitate to blogs such as yours. We can all improve our writing style, but a fairly narrow vocabulary is still appropriate for 90% of the time, barring the need for technical or academic terms as necessary.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Craig says:

    Save for some necessary technical jargon–which I’m pretty sure I consistently define along the way–do you find the other vocabulary a bit too lofty? Again, except for those words that I provide hyperlinks.

    What I’m sensing is that there is a trend to merely skim material–a trend fostered by the likes of Twitter, with its 140 character limit. Worse, regarding news, I’m confident that many merely scan the headlines, yet I’ve found that more times than not the substance of the article does not support the ‘click-bait’ title, even to the point of contradicting it! But that’s a different subject altogether.

    Anyway, my point is that I’m concerned many merely skim some of my material (“tl;dr”). But, then again, these types of readers may not be interested in actually learning something meaningful…

    Like

  7. Bruce Cooper says:

    Hi Craig. There’s not going to be any criticism here, just a recommendation that you may or may not find helpful. I spent 35 years in the military and as I progressed in rank and responsibilities, writing and teaching skills became a more dominant requirement. Personal Evaluation Reports had to be written on subordinates and there were Post Ex Reports, Lesson Plans and all sorts of documents that needed to be authored. I had the good fortune to be schooled in my latter years by an older Chief Warrant Officer who was really good at writing and communicating in general. In my desire to enhance my writing skills, I actually would try to learn about twenty five new words every week, and use them, when appropriate, in any official writing that I was responsible for.

    I thought that I had become quite adept at what we called “wordsmithing”. I remember one day, when this Chief was reviewing something that I had put together. I thought that I had done a pretty good job. He read through the document and then looked at me and asked me the following question: “What is it that you are trying to say?” I summarized it (without the fancy words) and he said, “Well, why don’t you just say that?” I never forgot that and I use that methodology to this very day.

    Written words should flow much like good conversation and we really don’t need to impress people with our vocabulary. If I write something, I try to write it as I would say it to someone, if we were speaking face to face. If there is a simple way to state something and a more articulate way to say it, I go with the simple way. You should write for the weakest comprehensive reader or student, if that is possible, without losing any of the thrust you wish to make. My background is technical and I taught network administration for a good number of years. I’ve literally taught hundreds of network administrators. I did my homework prior to, followed standard lesson plan outlines etc and then transcribed it into a verbal or written format that flowed like conversation does.

    I am not a scholar nor did I major in English literature, but I developed a knack for writing and teaching over the years that became very effective and in high demand. Now that I am retired, I use these same writing skills that I developed in the past, to convey relatively short narratives or articles on my Christian Apologetics blog and I still follow the KISS approach (Keep It Simple Stupid) if at all possible.

    I write for the ordinary layperson, which I am myself. I’m not writing to impress, I’m writing to convey and I try to do that, as simply as I can, so that literally anyone, can hopefully, get the point or points that I wish to convey. Results can vary depending on the complexity of the subject being covered. I guess for me, the primary importance is the clarity of the short narrative being presented for consideration. I focus more on keeping it short, maintaining a conversational flow, and avoiding the standard writing mistakes of over explaining or repeating that which has already been said. In short, I would recommend not to over analyze, just write what you want to say, as you would say it to someone in front of you, where the goal is to convey understanding.

    I also think it is important to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit as one writes, because God can and does guide us from time to time. That openness is really important because there have been numerous times when I have just started an article on a thought or awareness He has given me, and He has taken that thought and almost written the article for me. That is where the flow takes precedence over analysis. You put down on paper the thoughts or individual words that He gives you, as He gives them to you. This doesn’t happen all that frequently but frequent enough, that I am aware of the distinct difference between my own narrative and His. It happens. And of course, all that is given, is in accordance with God’s Holy Word. And this openness is facilitated with a conversational type of word flow and prayer, prior to and after.

    I don’t know if what I have recommended will be of any use to you, but I do put it out there for your consideration. I know that just about everyone’s writing style is different but I have found a freedom in using this methodology. Hope this helps. God’s blessing on you and yours. – Bruce

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Jim says:

    Yes I note your valid concerns that your obviously extensive efforts might not garner a reciprocal level of response. Although some posts are massive in their comment section. Is that possible lack of interaction from your audience a reflection of your articles depth, length and verbiage? I guess that’s what you want to find out!

    Connected to your post, I have noted that some viewers of video interviews and vlogs I follow comment that they don’t have the time (or patience probably!) to sit through an hour of material. That doesn’t seem to deter Joe Rogan but then he often posts shorter subject specific 10ish minute vignettes.

    I can’t suggest what’s most effective other than you stick to the style and detail that is most authentic to your way of communicating and let others work it in to their capabilities. We all need to be stretched and you do a good job of making us reach for the dictionary occasionally 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jim says:

    I’ll be 35 years continual military service in July. Like Bruce, the military school you quickly in the ABC approach – Accuracy, Brevity, Clarity. For apologetics and hermeneutics however, it’s also necessary to be prepared to ignore brevity. The early church fathers were hardly concise in their writings! Agreed, Twitter, tik tok et al have a lot to answer for re attention spans for most people sadly.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Craig says:

    Bruce,

    Thanks for the time and effort you put into your comment! My reply might be a bit all over the place. But here goes.

    For me each article is different. Some are to convey very technical material (not apologetics), others have apologetic value. The former require the use of jargon; and, I understand these will not reach the usual church-goer. But, then again, on the latter, some of the Bill Johnson articles required more technical verbiage so that the reader could see how Johnson was off in his teachings.

    Even the recent An Eternal Christological Conundrum had to incorporate somewhat technical verbiage and philosophical elements in order to convey the point I wished to make. One of my goals—and it may not be realistic—is to induce readers to reflect on the deeper aspects of our faith. I’m truly saddened that many choose much less fruitful endeavors (incessantly watching sports, e.g.) instead of learning more about the faith we hold.

    Another matter that may skew things here: I learn as I write. When I write I’m forced to research. I don’t want to publish something I’d not fully considered (which doesn’t mean I didn’t miss something!). Once I feel satisfied that I’ve put a given project into serviceable form, I will post it. I do consider a possible audience, sometimes knowing it will be limited.

    And I have many abandoned projects; but, I don’t find them to be failures. These have enabled me to learn more. There are times I’ve come back to an article years later.

    I’m also a layperson. I have a BA in Business. That’s the extent of my formal schooling. I like to stretch myself by reading material that is over my head. It requires me to learn. I also enjoy reading material from others I don’t agree with. I want to know why they hold to their views. This helps hone my critical thinking skills. Sometimes I’m persuaded by some of their views—things I’d not considered before. Other times I see the fault in their logic—or their desire to put forth a preconceived view without fully considering its ramifications.

    I agree that we need to be open to the Spirit. Sometimes, like you, I find the articles practically write themselves. Other times I start a project, put it aside for a bit, only later coming across something that helps me with that article, allowing me to finish it.

    Yes, your contribution has been useful. It is said that we all have blind spots. I’m looking for anyone to shine a light on them and put a mirror up to my face to show me; so, any feedback is helpful—pro, con, or in the middle.

    Like

  11. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Yep, there are some with VERY little comments. Interestingly, one that gets more views than I’d anticipated is the multi-part one on verbal aspect. It’s received clicks from various places, but it has linked to and discussed in forum on Classical Greek (pre-Koine/NT period), and they were scoffing at it. Oh well. It’s a valid linguistic model, but there is division on the time element (I don’t want to take up space here discussing it). In any case, ya never know!

    For me, I’m less inclined to listen to material. Many times, there’s too much small talk and interruptions. If I do, I generally speed it up. I much prefer to read.

    You wrote: …and let others work it in to their capabilities. That’s been my thinking. I know I am not going to reach all the readers, even those who’ve subscribed to the blog, with each post. That’s OK.

    And, I took this verbiage out of the article, though I saved it for a possible comment (glad I did!): However, regarding the vocabulary—if someone is reading my blog, then they are very likely on the internet, and it’s not that difficult to do a quick search for definitions of unknown terms! Is it?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Craig says:

    Man, that’s a long to be in the military! I did four years. Wasn’t for me. But it was great experience (I had a TS clearance), plus I got to stay and visit some far off places.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Bruce Cooper says:

    Hi Craig, I agree with a lot of what you have stated because indeed, not all posts are the same. I also have done a lot of research on the NAR and I think I have about 60 some odd posts on that movement alone. I also have a rather huge list of what I call unfinished “fact sheets” on a wide variety of subjects that I am continually building on. I have read many of your posts and a good number of them are included in my “Christian Resources” page links. I think you do outstanding work and I don’t say that lightly. Very few do any real research anymore, coupled with continually studying God’s Word, which explains why the Church is in the mess it is in today. Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the work that you do and especially the manner in which you articulate it, which I think is very well balanced. Blessings!

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Craig says:

    Bruce,

    Thanks for the compliment on the effort I’d put into and the manner in which I write the apologetics (NAR, Johnson, etc.) articles. I have and do try very hard to keep a neutral tone. And I appreciate you including some of the CrossWise articles in your “Christian Resources” page links.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. SLIMJIM says:

    How about switching it up from time to time? I think there is a need for serious academic posts you have written. A couple of years ago a blogger name Wally told me very directly I need to write more for everyone else. So I tried to write all range to the ability that I can, though I don’t know if I hit the right audience at times but I try to write some posts more practically, some more devotionally and some more with Bible and apologetics/theology. But I realize on WordPress some blogs focus on each of these areas better than I can for their respective area, and for that I’m grateful and I’m also learning from observing you and what you do and others too with what they do.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Craig says:

    SLIMJIM,

    Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, I do try to switch things up from time to time: I will write a lengthy, deep post (or posts) and follow up with a short one. But a problem I think I’m having is that many only gravitate to the newest post, neglecting the older ones. This means I might want to let a long one ‘breathe’ for a bit, not post a new one until readers have had sufficient time to contemplate its contents.

    I initially wrote for apologetics, focusing primarily on Bill Johnson and the New Apostolic Reformation. But, frankly, that gets VERY heavy after awhile, almost depressing. And, my heart’s desire is that more Christians would take more time to really study the Scriptures–which would lessen the need for apologetics, as Bruce pointed out (“…which explains why the Church is in the mess it is in today…”).

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Hi, Craig!
    I am new to your blog, so I am not sure how helpful or warranted my thoughts will be! I have to say, I am one of the people who do not read people’s older posts, unless they direct me to something they have previously written (which you have done!!!). Have you ever considered reposting some of your older material for your newer followers or as a refresher to those who have been following you for some time? (I only ask this because it is something that I have considered doing!)

    I VERY much appreciate the aspect of learning while you write, I am very much the same way! Do you journal? I ask this because that is largely where my non-prayer posts come from. Either from journaling in my God (quiet) time or papers that I have written for Seminary. I have found that when I am learning something new and start writing it in blog form that my writing and ideas are more coherent to myself than to the reader. Again, I am not sure how helpful it would be to do a prelim writing where after you have a topic that you could process it in a journal, notebook/pad (paper or electronic) and then make bullet points from that outline to guide your post. This may be too mechanical/structured. In the event none of this is making sense (I write like I talk, which means I both talk A LOT and fast) for me when I am writing a paper or a post where I am learning as I write, I write a rough draft first and from there I edit the paper and post asking the questions: what is the message I want to convey; how well am I conveying the significance of this message? As writers we know what we want to say, but we aren’t always as good at informing the reader of its importance/significance/application.

    The other suggestion if none of what i have said above makes sense is based on your comment to SlimJim. Would it be possible for you to do a follow up post a summary or conclusion to help readers “contemplate it contents”? I will be honest, I don’t know how long people contemplate posts, I have no clue how well people even remember the posts they read. I don’t follow a lot of blogs so that way those who I do follow I can really interact and ponder their writings. Again, I am an out loud processor (oral and written) so I am reflecting on this myself as well (this is why journaling is SO vital for me, had I journaled this privately first my response would have been way shorter and concise!!).

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Craig says:

    Mandy,

    ANY thoughts put to ‘paper’ here are helpful! Older posts do pose somewhat of a challenge. I receive quite a bit of traffic on the old Bill Johnson posts. Yet I’m receiving VERY few comments on them. I’m not sure why. Maybe folks think that because the posts were written long ago that they shouldn’t comment on them? I dunno.

    I have re-posted, or anthologized, some but only rarely. I’d been thinking about doing that more, so thanks for mentioning this.

    I tried journaling for a very short time a long time ago, but I never stuck with it. For me, it’s better just to jot down thoughts here and there in a Word doc. Just this morning a thought came to me as subject for a future blog post (short). So, I just wrote in my current Word doc. Regarding this doc, I started doing this a few years ago: Because I post (or used to) on blogs with deep subjects, my comments would be long and thought out. And because there were times the page would refresh (or something else) before I’d have a chance to post the comment I was working on, it would get lost. GASP! Frustrating! So, with these comments, I began composing them in Word first. Initially, I’d delete these when finished, but later it occurred to me that some of these lines of thought would come up later, and had I just saved the comment somehow, I might be able to retrieve it. And voila! I got the idea to just keep running Word docs stuffed full of various comments. Then when a particular subject would come up again, I might be able to retrieve the comment(s) by ctrl-F keywords. It has saved me time numerous times!

    As far as the process of writing itself, I begin with an idea and jot it down. If I can develop it, I usually start a separate Word doc, and place it in a separate “Blog” file folder. I’ll leave the doc open if it’s something I continue to write. Most times, these are in rough form, and I’m not exactly sure where it will go. I NEVER begin with an outline. I don’t know the outline because I don’t where the writing is going!

    And the process doesn’t always follow the same pattern. Sometimes the article flows well. Other times I start writing, then I find I should rearrange this and that, and the end product is entirely different that what I was working towards at first. At times other ideas are incorporated into the article, while older ones are tossed. Yet, I also don’t want to become too formulaic (defined intro, body, conclusion), because THAT can become boring after a while.

    I like your idea of posting a follow-up article pointing to, say, a certain aspect of the original.

    I really need to clean up my categories; they number far too many. But THAT will take a LOT of time. I’ve done just a little bit of it off and on this past year.

    One thing I did do somewhat recently is fiddle with some of the formatting, the look of the blog. I changed the color scheme a little. I italicized the titles. I moved some of the widgets.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I appreciate not wanting to become too “formulaic”! I find for me that if I don’t have some form of structure I won’t land my proverbial plane and my readers/hearers will be stuck flying around in the air!

    This is great reflection, Craig! I LOVE learning the writing process of other writers/bloggers! I am an editor at heart so these discussions are a passion of mine and energize me!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Craig says:

    For me, the structures find themselves. I can’t impose it from the beginning. If I try, I usually end up frustratingly trying to adhere to it, only to find that there’s a better way to convey what I wish to convey!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Craig says:

    The following shows what I want to strive for. I want to post short, to the point blogs like this one:

    Enlarging Our Enquiry

    along with (interspersed with) very technical, detailed articles, like this one:

    Re-Assembly Required

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Craig says:

    I visited Dr. David Alan Black’s blog for the first time in a while, and found this (under Tuesday, December 29 entry):

    …Did you know that Bible study is for every follower of Jesus? You don’t have to be a seminary graduate. You don’t have to have an academic degree or several of them. You don’t have to have a high IQ. You don’t have to be of any race or ethnicity. You don’t have to be physically strong or attractive. You don’t have to be wealthy. You don’t have to be of any age. You don’t have to spend ten years on the mission field. You don’t have to speak well before a group. That’s not a requirement. None of these are. The only thing required is a willingness to learn.

    He has other ponderings about writings over the past few days, as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. SLIMJIM says:

    Ah such is the nature of the internet. I feel you when you mention how people are going to what’s new. But then you poured a lot of energy into a post that should be more read…and the “scrolling on to something new” is the mindset that the internet encourages. I imagine though your older longer posts get most of its views from search engines?

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Craig says:

    From search engines, yes, but also other websites who’ve linked to the articles from years ago. Some come from Facebook and YouTube (I suppose from comments accompanying the latter). And some of those articles were translated to other languages, even; and, I still get occasional referrals from those.

    Liked by 1 person

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