On Writing, Blogging, and the Vocation of the Theologian | inspired by Augustine

“So I cannot decently refuse the brethren when they insist on their rights over me as their slave and demand that I should above all serve their praiseworthy studies in Christ by my tongue and my pen, a pair of horses in my chariot of which Charity is the driver. I must also acknowledge, incidentally, that by writing I have myself learned much that I did not know. So this work of mine should not be dismissed as superfluous either by the indolent or the learned, since it is very necessary to many who are neither indolent nor learned, myself included.” ((Augustine. The Trinity. Translated by Edmund Hill. Vol. 5 The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, Edited by John E. Rotelle. Brooklyn, NY: New City Press, 1990, 127.))

If I were teaching a Vocation of the Theologian class ((which I have taken. View my class notes.)) I might consider opening with this passage from Augustine’s De Trinitate. Augustine pauses at the beginning of Book III and contemplates this large task of writing that he is pursuing. The “brethren” to whom he refers are the Greek scholars that have already written about the Trinity in the Greek language. Here he is making the argument that very little has been written in Latin, his mother tongue.

His words highlight two important characteristics that are necessary to be an adequate teacher of the church:

  1. Charity (Love) must drive the chariot. Love is the motivation behind everything that we say and write. If this is not the case, then our words are clanging cymbals and the chaff of arrogance.
  2. The process of writing is not pursued with the end goal of what we have written being read so much as it is that in the process of writing the writer learns. This motivation inverts the intuitive suspicion that the scholar simply seeks to puff herself up to appear superior to others. Rather, the writing is the process of sorting through the data, to make sense of it, and to articulate it in such a way that thoughts coalesce. It is a discipline of meditation.

These words also help me understand why I want to blog. It is not that I want hundreds of people to follow my blog. It is in the discipline of creating the blog that my thoughts become organized and clear. The public nature of the blog also creates a necessary filter to temper my words and weigh them more carefully before they come to the light of the public eye.