Angry Prophets, Reader Rebuke, and Simple Faith


You may have noticed it’s been quiet here at Cerulean Sanctum of late, with fewer posts spread farther and farther apart.

Fact is, I’m exhausted.

Anyone who has ever been a caregiver will understand. I’ve been in that role for a couple years now. It’s not one that comes naturally to me; nor is it a role I requested. I’m sure it will not last forever, but right now it is hard. I’ve had to pull back from nearly everything I’ve been involved in.

A select few readers know the situation, but it’s not one for public forums.

To add to this, I’ve been receiving a greater than average number of private emails calling into question what shows up on the pages of Cerulean Sanctum. Increasingly, the tone is angry.

I’ve mulled over those emails. I take every email I receive seriously, whether it be positive or negative. I’ve enclosed one such negative email below:

Subject: Are You the Next Phil Johnson?

You are rapidly approaching that stage of self-exaltation where you’re so convinced of your own righteousness that you can’t hear anything from anybody. If you want an example of that kind of vanity and arrogance, how about the original Pyro-narcissist, Phil Johnson? Have you written your own bio for Wikipedia yet, Dan? How about printing up tee-shirts or coffee mugs? Wouldn’t it be so great if everyone could have a cup of Cerulean Sanctum while they’re online?

And with your Feedburner badge proudly proclaiming how many readers subscribe, have you considered the effect you might be having on all the younger brethren in that total? You’re slowly poisoning their faith, day after day, week after week, turning them into chronic complainers like yourself, and making them confirmed cynics and pessimists.

Have you considered how you might embolden some of these weaker brothers and sisters to do things their uneasy consciences might otherwise keep them from doing? “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak … When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” (1 Cor. 8:9-13)

Have you thought about the possibility that you could even be the blogosphere’s next Michael Spencer? (i.e., check out early) “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1) You’re definitely opinionated, just as Michael was, but no more qualified to speak on many of the subjects you comment on. And your vanity can be downright embarrassing.

While you’ve been building this Tower of Babel (or babble) known as CS, have you considered that the Lord may “come down” (Gen. 11:5-9) to dismantle what you’ve built and scatter your followers? (i.e., to more qualified teachers more in line with His purposes)

One thing is as sure as the law of gravity. “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled.” (Matt. 23:12) I don ‘t think you even know what spirit controls you, and it’s going to take a hard fall to jar you back to reality (if it’s not too late for that to happen). And if you think the only alternative to your approach is some kind of Boy Scout righteousness, that just confirms how little depth you really have.

You need to take my advice. You need to seek counseling (cf. my previous comment on CS) and think about getting down from your soapbox for awhile, for everyone’s sake, including your own.

Paul Overall (you’re a smart guy, but in case you didn’t get it … a pall over all you write about)

I posted that because I think it’s a fair example of what has happened to rebuke among Christian brothers and sisters.

The anonymity of the Internet and the general breakdown of our culture that has accompanied it has turned us all into angry people. Worse, too many of us consider ourselves crusaders against this or that.

At the risk of further creating cynical, pessimistic young believers, I want to say that we American Christians can’t let our discourse keep plummeting into angry prophet mode, especially when it carries no winsomeness at all. We seem to have become a people known only for what we oppose and those whom we rebuke. We are not so much about being light but being antidarkness.

This blog exists because I routinely encountered fellow believers who had been in the Church for years and wondered if what they were experiencing was the fullness of what it means to be in the Body of Christ. What I kept hearing them say was “something is not right.” Many couldn’t put their finger on the lack because so much of what they had become was not about being the light, but being antidarkness. And sometimes, one can’t reason to the light simply from the position of antidarkness. Yet in far too many cases, that is all that we have given Christians in America.

The question Can we do better? fuels this blog. It’s the entire reason Cerulean Sanctum exists. I believe with all my heart that the Church in North America CAN do better. We CAN be more than we have been. We CAN be a more fulfilling community, one that models light more than it does antidarkness.

The only way to get to that light is to show what the light looks like. That’s not an easy task for those accustomed mostly to being antidarkness. It’s The Matrix all over again, being trapped in a pseudoreality and looking beyond it to what is geniune and real.

When I attended Wheaton College, I was in a New Testament overview class taught by a brilliant professor. I wanted to mine his wisdom, so I asked questions in class. I posed some tough issues and he gave mindblowing responses that I found life altering. After a while, it dawned on me that I was always the only person asking questions; most of the class just sat there.

One day, I was approached by a big guy from the class who threatened to punch me out if I asked anymore questions. True story.

That metaphor strikes me when it comes to where we are in American Christianity as we near 2011. I fear that too many of us not only hate the questions, but we can’t stand the answers, either. We have become a status quo people who do not want to be broken out of whatever reverie we’ve created for ourselves.

In short, too many of us don’t care about improving anything, much less the way the Church functions. As long as we have a paycheck and can buy stuff, put our kids through some elite school, and retire in peace, stop bothering us with questions. And answers bug us too.

I keep wondering what it is going to take to shake us. But then, it’s not as if any of this is new. I was reading through a portion of Jeremiah a couple weeks ago and the folks of that day complained just as mightily about having their reverie questioned.

I make no pretenses to being a prophet. I’m just a bystander in this life, watching the world go by, and wondering why some things are the way they are. Given what I have seen, too many of us never get past being a bystander. We’re cool with that role. Leave the wondering to troublemakers. And get the troublemakers out of our churches too.

Cerulean Sanctum is NOT going away, but I am going to take a break for the month of December.

What I feel God is saying to me personally is to get away from all the complexity of what we Americans have made of the Faith and get back to the simple core. What’s scary is a lot of us American Christians don’t want the simple core, either. The greatest two commandments, to love God and love our fellow man, are answers we don’t want to hear, because in hearing them, everything in our lives must change, everything down to our very own core. And the status quo is SO much easier, even if there is no genuine life in it.

See you in January.

On Contentment


Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
—1 Timothy 6:6-8

At a time of the year when we celebrate Christ coming in the flesh to dwell among us and rescue us from sin and death, why is it that so many people are sad?

Some people recall loved ones that didn’t live to see another Christmas. For them, I can understand how Christmas can feel gray. I went through that feeling in 2001. Didn’t feel all that great, but I moved on.

Some people will be alone again this Christmas. Can’t say that I ever experienced that reality, but not having anyone to share Christmas can be a tough time. I understand that one, too.

When you push aside those two very human and understandable reasons to be sad at Christmastime, not too many other good reasons exist.

I read v. 8 out of that 1st Timothy passage above and it knocks me out. Food and clothes. That’s it. Well, perhaps not all of it. Paul writes in many other places about the cheer that fellow believers gave him whenever he had a chance to fellowship with them, so he definitely saw how loneliness and the loss of dear ones chipped away at his resolve.

When you get to the meat of Paul’s words, though, it’s hard to escape the reality that beyond Jesus, all the Christian truly needs is food and clothing.


I sit in my office now and type this on a six-year-old PC. My ten-year-old Mac’s gotten too slow to handle most Web sites anymore, what with the million Javascripts, cookies, Flash animations, AJAX, and whatever loads in your average Web site today.

But I’ve got two computers in my house. Two.

Here in my office, I sit in front of a phone and a Brother duplexing fax/scanner/laserprinter while a satellite dish pours out binary to the heavens. I’ve got a bookshelf full of books like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Complete Grimm Fairy Tales, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Winnie the Pooh, The Classic Collection of E.M. Bounds on Prayer, Revival by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and I’m Just Here for the Food by Alton Brown.

I’ve got a couple of brandy snifters I don’t think I’ve ever used sitting in the glasses cabinet. Two desks. Two. Another bookshelf filled with the complete series of The Interpreter’s Bible. Three filing cabinets. Three.

But all I need is Jesus, food, and clothing to be content.

I read a book recently that said that contentment is complete satisfaction with the will of God. Can most of us say we’re content with the will of God for our lives? Don’t we sometimes look around and wonder how that guy over there got all the good stuff and I didn’t? Don’t we entertain fantasies of what we’d do differently in our lives if we had access to a genuine time machine?

I haven’t seen it in years, but the old Charlie Brown Halloween special has a scene where the kids compare the treats they receive at every house they visit, Chuck, learn to love the rock...and poor ol’ Charlie Brown is always forced to admit, “I got a rock.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t bring myself to say, “I got a rock,” anymore. That’s a lie. No matter what life brings, none of us has the right to say, “I got a rock.” Jesus didn’t die so that you could have a rock—unless that rock’s what rolled away from the empty tomb. (That rock and what it means…well, that I’ll take.)

So for all those people sad at Christmas because the neighbor got a snow blower while you got a cheap shovel from Walgreens, I say two words: “Get real.”

Because I don’t see in my Bible that I need a snow blower to be content. In fact, Paul doesn’t even me mention a roof over his head as part of his contentment.

Think on that for a couple minutes. This post will wait….

So for all those folks out there with long faces at Christmastime, I offer no greater words of wisdom than to say, “Snap out of it!” Who are we to grouse about this thing or that? When Jesus asked Peter whether he and the rest of the twelve wanted to take off like some fairweather followers had, Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” And by “Lord” he wasn’t talking about Lord & Taylor.

Who are we to moan at Christmastime—or any time? Do we have food? Do we have clothes? Most of all, do we have Jesus?

Sounds like contentment to me.

How to Be a Godblogger Who Matters…


Lately, I’ve been besieged with pleas for me to…

…review books in a sort of “reviews for links” mutually beneficial pact.
…join a network of bloggers.
…sell ad space on Cerulean Sanctum.
…list my site on the latest Christian group blogroll.

All four have been troubling, but only one of those will receive the most attention in this post. Care to guess which?

* I like books, but I can’t do book reviews. I simply don’t have the time. While the Canadian government has successfully cloned Tim Challies so he can attend conferences, review books and DVDs, write books, work as a Web designer, and post meaningfully 365 days a year for years on end, I stand for hours at a time somewhere in the middle of my house mumbling, “Now what was I doing?” Like everyone else, I blame George W. Bush for halting the American counterpart to Canada’s wildly successful human cloning program. I suspect, though, that should a clone of Dan Edelen ever be delivered to my household, the two of us would collide in the middle of the house, stare at each other vacantly for hours, and eventually get around to asking in stereo, “Now what were we doing?”

* Network of bloggers? Last time I looked, they called that The Internet. It’s some little doodad Al Gore devised out of carbon offsets.

* Long ago, I promised not to sell ad space here. While some bloggers make $10,000+ a month off ads, I spend about that much per month trying to fend off hotlinkers, sploggers, and a host of other vampiric creatures from the nether regions of cyberspace. Selling ads makes you beholden to your advertisers, and since I manage to cheese off just about everyone in Christendom at some point or other during the course of my regular blogging, I can’t see how that would ever work. Don’t want to sell my soul to the company store, if you catch my drift. I do put in a few hours a day on this blog, and that does take me away from paid work, so I’m considering a tip jar. And yes, I’ve been sweating that consideration for about eighteen months now—but that’s not what this post is about.

* No this post is about that last item of the four: listing my site on (and subsequently hosting) group blogrolls. Seems like a score of people are pushing their homegrown group blogroll or award badge. Just Add Your Link Here! and you’ll be assured of instant blogging success! Here’s the code! Just shove it into your sidebar! You’ll be at the top of the charts in no time!


I started blogging in the Cambrian Period of blogdom, when giant Web Trilobites roamed cyberspace, feasting on the dying flesh of Usenet. Glenn Reynolds was known mostly as a geeky law professor in a Red State, while James Lileks was actually still shopping at Kmart. Hey, everyone's got a blog, don't they?Back then, having anyone link to your blog seemed tantamount to a marriage proposal, as if you were legally indebted to the linker. To not reciprocate the link sent shockwaves through blogdom, causing grown men to faint dead away and women to spontaneously combust.

Nowadays, though, some people must spend all day signing up for (and hosting) group blogrolls and adding yet another award badge to their ever-increasing numbers of sidebars. It used to be a sort of knowing wink-wink, this game. See, these newfangled sites like Technorati and N.Z. Bear’s TTLB Ecosystem will rate your site and—clap!—PUMP YOU UP, or at least pump up your blog, so you can, well…be pumped up.

Now I admit I have a TTLB Ecosystem listing on my site. I joined the Ecosystem during the Permian Period of blogdom. Thought the darn thing kind of cute, truth be told. But what then to make of all these folks trying to get me to join their own group blogroll?

Now before I go any further in this little exposé, I want to put up a disclaimer:


I mentioned recently that my failure to slavishly check my logs led to 200,000 hits in the last three months from MySpace users hotlinking my image files (all public domain images, ironically). Visitor logs? For me, it’s not about how many readers this blog gets. I was ecstatic when I got a comment early into my blogging life. I’m still ecstatic when you folks comment here. Tells me people do read what I write. But it’s not about numbers and never has been.

Unfortunately, it seems to be about numbers for some other Christian folks and that bugs me, especially when we consider why it matters to them. So I did some digging over at The Truth Laid Bear.

If you take a look at the Blogdom of God over at TTLB, you’ll notice rankings listing the real movers and shakers in Godblogdom. You can also mosey over to check out the Ecosystem rankings. The two go together in that the higher ranked Christian blogs in the Ecosystem populate the tops of the Blogdom of God, too. As it should be.

Yet all is not what it appears to be, for if you starting looking behind those top Blogdom of God blogs, you begin to see a lot of unfamiliar blog names. Now I’m not going to name any of those blogs here, but if you’ve been blogging long enough, you get an idea of which blogs are the ones most people read. The same blog names keep cropping up as references in other blogs. (There’s a reason for this, which I’ll explain later.)

I decided to do a little detective work on those unfamiliar blogs at the upper echelons of the Blogdom of God and found a curious trend. Randomly picking out a bunch I’d never seen referenced anywhere else, I checked to see if they had any stat counters on their sites. Most of them did, because most people like to know how popular their blog is. What I found surprised me.

Many of those unfamiliar blogs proved unfamiliar because their stats showed hardly anyone read them. One of those top-ranked blogs got an average of just 29 hits a day. Several of them were under 100. But if that’s the case, how’d they get to be Large Mammals or Playful Primates in the Ecosystem, or wind up so high in the Blogdom of God rankings?

Answer: They had a gazillion outsider group blogrolls in their sidebars.

The TTLB Ecosystem loves blogs that contain a bevy of blogrolls. So do Technorati and the rest. This explains the sudden surge in people asking you and me to join their group blogrolls. Those folks load up their sidebars with group blogrolls like “Association of Reformed Bloggers,” “League of Christian Women Bloggers,” “Bloggers Against Arminian Bloggers,” “Bloggers Fighting Mad About This U2 Liturgy Thingie,” “The Cabal of Bloggers Who Think We Should Kill ‘Em All and Let God Sort ‘Em Out,” and “The Holy Exalted Host of Bloggers So Exclusively Reformed As to Deny Calvin a Chair in Our Club.” (Every once in a while you get a “Hey, Pentecostals Blog Too, So Can We Have Blogroll?” blogroll, but that one only has a dozen blogs on it, so technically it doesn’t count in this discussion.)


Some folks think this proliferation of hosted third-party blogrolls will push the Christian blogs displaying them up the charts of those ranking sites. They consider this the chance for us Christian bloggers to show the rest of the world that we’re a force to be reckoned with. Onward Christian Bloggers and all.

But loading up our sidebars with group blogrolls to artificially pump up our blog site rankings is precisely the wrong way to get the world to sit up and take notice.

I have one sidebar on this site, and two blogrolls, my own personal roll and Joe Carter’s. Joe’s been out there for a while, and his The Evangelical Outpost tops the charts because of hard work. Joe put up his group blogroll, The Church Directory, in an effort to let other Christian bloggers out there find other Christian blogs. I link to that blogroll because that’s how I saw it, too. For being one of the first to feature a diverse set of Christian blogs that crossed denominational lines, Joe’s blogroll made it into my sidebar.

Today, however, blogrolls proliferate at a rate unheard of when Joe created The Church Directory. And considering that most of these new group blogrolls feature the same blogs ad nauseum, the point gets lost. I don’t even look at these third-party group blogrolls anymore because I don’t have the time to scroll through a thousand blogs. Nor do I have the time to scroll through the sidebar at a Christian blog that loads up with twenty group blogrolls of mostly duplicated blog titles. While the Ecosystem loves to rank a blog with a trillion outgoing links near the top of its rankings, I’ve got to believe a better means exists for us Christians to make a stand for Christ in the blogosphere.

How about writing great content? Don’t posts that get us thinking make all the difference? If we Christian bloggers merely add noise to the signal, we’ll be ignored. Better that we write the kind of profound words that will have others linking to us rather than us linking somewhere else in an effort to look more important than we are. Honestly, why should we care that we’re in the top 5,000 blogs at Technorati if we got there only on a sidebar jammed with external links? If no one reads us, isn’t that counterproductive to the plan some of these bloggers have to use blogroll bloat to show how important Christianity is in the blogosphere?

We know the Bible. We know what happens to people who make themselves out to be bigger than they are. They get exposed. Then shamed.

When a blogger puts a dozen off-site-hosted group blogrolls in his sidebars, I ignore those rolls. Let’s be honest here. If someone offered you a thousand links that came from outside the blog you were visiting, what’s your chance of picking one name out of that list and finding something worth reading? Who has the time for that kind of random excursion through the blogosphere?

Those of you who have Cerulean Sanctum on one of your personal blogrolls (as opposed to these group blogrolls I’ve been discussing), I wish to thank you. People do take those small, personal blogrolls to heart. On some of the smaller blogs with limited numbers of blogs listed in their personal rolls, they do result in people coming over. I get links from other blogs that way.

Even then, I get far more traffic from people googling. They’re googling content. They’re looking for something in particular. Yes, some want the images, but even then, many drop me a line and later stay on as readers. For those looking for the written word, what ends up in text on Cerulean Sanctum matters. Some folks need help and they’re desperate to find it. If you’re a Christian blogger, fill your blog with meaningful words that will minister to others. Don’t fill it with someone else’s blogrolls.

Truth: If you’re a Christian blogger, prove Jesus Christ lives and breathes in you by offering Spirit-filled posts that build up others and point people to Him. Don’t waste your time playing a game of pumping up your blog ranking with a bunch of outsider blogrolls so you appear important. Be important by saying something important. If you do, folks who need to hear what you’re saying will find you.

Just something to think about.