Monday, January 16, 2012

Carl Trueman: On Media and Messages

A few years ago, I was on a panel discussing the Puritans. A member of the audience asked if I could provide `a few bullet points' to summarise Puritan theology. My mind immediately went to those passages of John Owen and Richard Baxter where they give the reader the fifteenth point of the seventeenth qualification of the twentieth application of a doctrine or passage. `No, I'm afraid I can't.' I replied, `The Puritans were not bullet point people in the modern sense.'

Of course these days there are pastors who love providing a few mere bullet points to some door-stopping book like William Gurnall's The Christian in Full Armour.  If I were trapped in Seattle on a cold night without gas or electric heat and had to keep myself warm then if I lit the unabridged Gurnall book on fire it would probably keep my feet warm for maybe five to ten minutes, a while for a ream of paper anyway.  I've seen a summary of Gurnall's teaching that spanned 120 pages but not a few bullet points.  And this, mind you, is just one Puritan.  J. I. Packer gave a roughly ten hour overview of the Puritans for anyone who'd really want the "a few bullet points" version.

Amusingly enough Trueman links to the following article with a fun title.  PG-13 language alert for the readers here.

Never apologise, never explain. And you have 109 characters left...

We can all sympathise, I am sure, with the predicament of Diane Abbott MP last week. "White people love playing 'divide & rule'. We should not play their game," she tweeted. Put under pressure to clarify this, she hastily explained: "Tweet taken out of context. Refers to nature of 19th- century European colonialism. Bit much to get into 140 characters."
Yep, we've all been there. There you are wanting to tweet a nuanced disquisition on ethnic communities under the white 19th-century imperial hegemony and, damn it, Twitter's wretched character limit has gone and cut you off before you've barely begun.

... For ever since that "pretty straight kind of guy" Tony Blair arrived on the scene, we have come to take it almost for granted that when our politicians swear blind they're telling the truth, they are lying through their teeth. And that, of course, when they claim they've been quoted out of context, they meant every single ugly word.

No comments: