What you probably don’t know about Justin Taylor is that he has a wicked sense of humor. While you may catch a glimpse of how funny he can be on Twitter, he doesn’t let his devastating wit shine through as much on his blog. In fact, even long-time readers of Between Two Worlds aren’t likely to have discovered that about him—or much else about Justin. While some bloggers put their personalities front and center, Justin has remained mostly in the background while he promotes the work of others. The result is that he has become one of the most wildly successful bloggers in the history “Godblogging.”
Several years ago I wrote about the influence a blogger could have by capturing a reader’s attention for only five minutes a day. Five minutes a day, five days a week adds up to almost 22 hours a year. Over the past decade I’ve spend at least 220 hours reading Justin’s blog. And he never wasted a minute of my time. During those 220 hours he subtly but profoundly changed the way I think about theology and the Christian life. Only rarely has Justin directly told me what I should think about an issue. Instead, he pointed me to books, essays, and other resources that helped to shape my views.
There are few people who have had such a profound effect on my thinking. I suspect many other people feel the same way. Yet when you reflect on his influence, you realize that Justin changed our thinking by using the lightest touch. The profound impact he has had on the community of believers shows how much we can change lives when we put God’s work ahead of our own egos.
What was your motivation for starting a blog?
“A joy shared is a joy doubled.” I’ve always been someone who enjoys sharing the things that I find personally edifying and interesting.
In the late ‘90s, while undergrads, my friend Matt Perman and I started an apologetics website to share various things we were learning and to influence the conversation. A few years later, while working at Desiring God, I decided to start a personal blog after reading Hugh Hewitt’s book entitled, Blog. I thought I was starting too late, and that everyone already had a blog. I decided to call the blog “Between Two Worlds” after looking over at my bookshelf and seeing John Stott’s book by that name.
My main motivations were that I thought I might have a gift for collecting interesting and edifying resources and wanted to share that with a broader audience than just a small group of friends. People are online all the time anyway — why not point them to resources that can serve and strengthen them rather than just amuse them?
How has blogging changed your life over the past decade?
This is a harder question to answer than I expected. Perhaps that’s because it is difficult — for me at least — to draw clear lines of influence and change back to particular causes in the past. But here are a few things that come to mind: (1) I know and have interaction with a broader range of people than I otherwise would. (2) I’ve become something of an “influencer” (one of those well-worn words) — nothing like a celebrity (even in our small pond of the evangelical ecosystem), but I do have access to a mechanism to make recommendations and observations, and I can’t take that trust for granted. (3) Blogging has helped me develop a thicker skin, knowing that criticism is inevitable (and often deserved). (4) I’ve learned that instantaneous response is not necessarily the path of a virtuous response. So one of the effects that blogging has had for me is a great knowledge of who I am, both in what I’m good at and where I can still be arrogant and unedifying.
What is one lesson you’ve learned from blogging about writing, communicating, etc.?
Blogging has reinforced for me the three virtues I most value in effective writing: goodness, truth, and beauty. In other words, the writing should be excellent and edifying, it should think God’s thoughts after him, and it should be beautifully compelling. But none of this will matter if it’s unclear. As C.S. Lewis said, “I sometimes think that writing is like driving sheep down a road. If there is any gate open to the left or the right the reader will most certainly go into it.” Again and again, the medium of the blog — which often reinforces the notion that shorter is better — has pushed me to be as clear as I can possibly be. To write carefully and clearly is one way we can love our neighbors as ourselves.
How has blogging itself or the blogosphere changed in these ten years?
Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I think we are more bored with blogs than we were ten years ago. Our attention spans are even shorter as we want to hear from and interact with more people but with fewer characters — hence the rise of Twitter. What was a short piece ten years ago is now almost considered “long form.” That means that the bar is set higher for a blog post to work well and to resonate with readers. It also means there are fewer comments than there used to be. Many people would rather hash things out on Facebook or Twitter rather than the comments section of a blog (which is fine by me!).
Further, blogging seems more specialized and consolidated these days. The Gospel Coalition, of course, is one example of consolidations, where blogs operate under a larger umbrella. Patheos would be another example. Many successful Christian blogs have become more niche, trying less to be the one-stop shop and more like a specialty shop. All of this is positive from my standpoint. Frankly, I was trying to be like TGC before TGC came along, and I am so delighted with Collin Hansen’s editorial leadership on this website, for TGC can do what I could never do on my own. I count it as a win for the kingdom. And as long as the Lord would have me do it, I’ll be off in the corner continuing to point to things I think folks will find interesting and edifying.