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A friend recently asked me a question that I had never been asked and which I found more difficult to answer than I assumed I would. The question arose because I had been tidying up my RSS feeds - a task I tend to do two or three times a year as web sites change and content creators stop producing. My changing and developing interests also make this exercise necessary from time to time.
The question asked was, "If you had to recommend one blog what would it be?"
I currently subscribe to 162 web sites via RSS, most of which are either blogs or contain a blog as part of their wider content. I use Google Reader to sync these feeds through the brilliant Feedly application on Mozilla Firefox. Feedly turns RSS feeds into a magazine format, which enhances the reading experience ten times.
So, of these 162 blogs that I read regularly, which would I recommend?
I realise that there is a difference between my favourites, and my recommendations. The former category says something about me; the latter focuses more on my understanding of the person to whom I am making a recommendation.
Some general factors that I take into account when subscribing to a blog feed (via RSS or any other method) are:
- I have to find the content interesting, instructive, stimulating or entertaining
- I have to find the content well-written - not full of grammatical errors, slang or cliches
- I tend not to follow sites with a lot of video content - my default preference is for the written word rather than the visual image
- I want to be informed by someone who is knows their field well
- I want to be exposed to ideas that may challenge my existing assumptions and beliefs because I find this helps me to think through more carefully what I actually believe
- I prefer a blog that allows comments and interaction
So, taking all the above into consideration, what are my top ten blog RSS feeds that I currently follow, which meet all or most of the above criteria?
In no particular order, here they are:
- Ed Stetzer - The Lifeway Research Blog. I appreciate Ed's broad view of the (American) Christian scene and his attempt to fuse sociological research with applied evangelical theology at both a church and national level.
- Stephen M Walt is Professor of International Relations at Harvard University and blogs on the site Foreign Policy. His stance as "a realist in an ideological age" enables him to ask rational questions that rarely make it into the mainstream political discourse. An example would be his arguement that Iran's possession of a nuclear weapon would not necessarily be all bad.
- Cole-Slaw is not a brilliantly-produced blog (with various fonts used throughout and little evidence of much attention to visual design.) All this should be overlooked, however, as the content is very much a "now word" on the nature of church leadership and church planting. I believe that Neil Cole's experience of a new paradigm of releasing church planting movements in western urban settings warrants serious consideration.
- Christian Medical Comment by Dr Peter Saunders is my first port of call for content on medical ethics, as well as other topics from time to time. Always well-researched and well-presented, Dr Saunders takes into account the human as well as the abstract ethical considerations of the positions put forth. A good bedside manner.
- I don't read Elizabeth Esther's blog very often, but when I do I am struck by two realities. Firstly, the courage and honesty of a woman trying to regain her life and her faith after growing up in an oppressive church setting. Secondly, a sober reminder of the fruit of a gospel that is not centred upon the grace of God in Christ. Not always a jolly read, the blog is gutsy, personal, well-written and not without hope. It should feature on all courses in pastoral theology, in my opinion.
- The New Economics Foundation offers "economics as if people and the planet mattered." In the early twentieth century, economics began to be separated in western universities from ethics, and seen as primarily a matter of numbers and graphs. NEF tries to put the two strands back together.
- I often find myself disagreeing with things written by John H Armstrong. What attracts me to his blog, however, is his attempt to find a genuinely ecumenical approach to Christian mission. His paleo-Orthodox position forces me to look beyond post-Reformation constructs of evangelicalism and ask important questions about the nature of the church and what it means to be a Christian believer.
- Orion Magazine is one of the most beautifully-written sites I know. Its longer-than-average articles have a strong emphasis on nature and environmental themes, but without merely repeating slogans from others working in these fields.
- Earliest Christianity explores the latest research and thinking on the history of the Church in its first three centuries. Not always an easy read, the blog is academic in its tone, but provides a window into the important stage of transition between what are often referred to as the apostolic and sub-apostolic ages.
- What You Think Matters is the applied theology blog of a number of mostly younger writers and church leaders from the New Frontiers family of churches. The combination of Reformed theology and charismatic church life is a potent one, in my experience, and the blog has an increasing breadth of topics covered.
So, in answer to the question, "If you had to recommend one blog what would it be?" - my answer would be, "One of the above."
At least, that's the case at the end of 2012. Maybe I should make this a question I should answer annually
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