Since you're reading this, you occasionally must stumble through the multiple nodes of the interwebs wherein dwells the "Church Blog World." And as you wander through the mysterious tales and imaginations of this pushed-pixel, Western Christian universe, you've probably asked yourself, "Gee, I wonder who the Top 100 Church Bloggers are?"
Kent Shaffer has heard your thoughts (which is kind of scary and we should probably do some serious witch-hunting investigating) and through the use of statistical analysis and a little eye of the newt, has come up with that very list. *
My friend, Ed Stetzer, one of the company of 100, whose blog has rocketed up the charts (he's #23 with a bullet – up from #39 in January) made this observation on the list,
…it is fascinating to see how dominant the "Reformed camp" is in blog town. Some see the Emerging Church conversation in decline, so that may be reflected in the rankings. But there are many others who consider the Emerging Church as the leading voice calling for change in the church. However, clearly it is the Reformed who are getting traction in the blogosphere. (Now, of course, that could be because those Reformed people are not at all those great contemporary church conference and are, instead, home blogging!)
Second, it is interesting to me how these worlds generally do not mix. If there are three major spheres in blog town today, they might be the Reformed, the emerging, and the contemporary.
Andrew Jones, the towering, South-Pacifican thinman, who once dominated the church blog charts (he fell to #15 in January and now sits at #25) responded to Ed. TSK offered five points of his own as to why the Reformed Camp dominates, citing the impact of RSS feeds on the emerging conversation (as an example, I read blogs in Google Reader rather than visiting the actual websites), the move to Twitter & Facebook and the reduction in linking. (There are some good additional thoughts in the comments on Andrew's post, plus I should note that Andrew does not blog as consistently as he once did – thus the drop in his top blog position.)
Andrew's final point notes the power of heat to draw a crowd,
The emerging controversies and conversations were huge a number of years ago but are now a more accepted part of the church and mission landscape. The new reformed movement, on the other hand, has generated some fresh controversy in certain denominations that will not be named [ . . . OK . . . Southern Baptist!] and controversy generates buzz which generates LINKS and links lead to rankings.
My take would be that the Reformed section of the blog pool, along with their close cousins the Truly Reformed, are more willing to take categorical positions on primary, secondary and tertiary issues. They aren't afraid to call out people they believe have abandoned a Reformed understanding of the Gospel. (N.T.Wright is often in their cross hairs. See this, if you have an hour to spare.) To these folk, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox are certainly not Christians.
It would seem that the lenses in their theological frames were hand-crafted by John Calvin, and those who can't or won't see through those glasses are probably 'not part of the elect anyway'. The brethren and sistren in that camp are quite willing to state that – generating lots of heat… and traffic.
I found Ed's and TSK's posts interesting in light of two other items that appeared in my browser in the past 24 hours. One was an article from Cardus – Joe Carter on NeoCalvinism or Kuyperianism. As I've said elsewhere, a number of my friends are Kuyperian in their reformational philosophy – and practice a kinder, gentler, more inclusive – to other Christians – form of their faith.
Note that Carter writes and is web editor for First Things, the magazine founded by the late Father Richard John Neuhaus. As well, a number of my Kuyperian friends are signatories to the Evangelical Call for Response to Pope Benedict's Caritas in Veritate. (I should mention that the blog Joe started years ago, Evangelical Outpost, would have once been in the single digits of any top christian blogger list.)
The other item was a post from Fuller's Richard Mouw writing on Abraham Kuyper's younger colleague, Herman Bavinck. According to Mouw, also a NeoCalvinist, Bavinck's
"…tone was more moderate, and he treated views with which he disagreed with much charity—unlike Kuyper, who often came across as a polemicist. Bavinck’s kinder and gentler orthodoxy holds out much promise for us in North America, especially since his works are being assigned these days to students in a variety of seminaries on the more conservative end of the Reformed and Presbyterian communities."
Mouw quotes Bavinck,
We must remind ourselves that the Catholic righteousness by good works is vastly preferable to a protestant righteousness by good doctrine. At least righteousness by good works benefits one’s neighbor, whereas righteousness by good doctrine only produces lovelessness and pride. Furthermore, we must not blind ourselves to the tremendous faith, genuine repentence, complete surrender and the fervent love for God and neighbor evident in the lives and work of many Catholic Christians. The Christian life is so rich that it develops its full glory not just in a single form or within the walls of one church.(Emphasis added)
Quite a friendly tone, for a Calvinist writing six decades before the reforms of Vatican II.
Indeed, wise thoughts all. If that way of being “orthodox Reformed” were to take hold here in North America, we might have a real revival on our hands! (Emphasis added)
Last evening after reading Mouw's post, I tweeted the Bavinck line,
It's a powerful line. Actually following Bavinck's generosity might cause one NOT to climb the charts of the Top 100 Church Blogs. But. What might it do for the Kingdom?
PS – I should note that this humble nanonode of Church Blogdom had a more precipitous fall on said charts than did my dear friend, Andrew – from #50 to #85. By next January, I would expect to be off the charts.
*Sorry for the out of focus shot of the metal Top 100 logo – dang squirrel jumped in front of my camera.