Between Two Worlds: An Interview with Justin Taylor
Tabletalk: What led you to start a blog?
Justin Taylor: One of my favorite parts of elementary school was “show and tell.” I’ve always enjoyed sharing with others those things that I find fascinating. Eight years ago, I would regularly send a small group of friends items of interest on the Internet, and blogging seemed like a natural extension of what I was already doing, except for a wider audience. My assumption was that many Christians are already on the web every day. My goal is simply to put before them a steady stream of edifying links, excerpts, and notices that will help us all grow in godliness for God’s glory.
TT: How do you choose what topics to blog about?
JT: My two main criteria are those things that (1) are edifying and (2) are interesting or exciting to me. It’s easy to lose sight of the incredible (and humbling) fact that our generation has more access to gospel-centered resources than any generation in the history of the church. This makes the vocation of blogging easy at one level, given the plethora of spiritually healthy materials we have at our fingertips. Because the goal of the Christian life is to see and savor “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6), most of my blog posts have some connection with seeing and experiencing God, His grace, and His gospel.
TT: Do Christian bloggers face unique challenges? Do they have unique opportunities?
JT: Yes and yes. The biggest opportunity is also the biggest challenge, namely, real-time commentary, analysis, and interaction. A great book review can be read 100,000 times before a bad book hits the shelves (as was the case with Kevin DeYoung’s review of Rob Bell’s Love Wins). However, in our flesh we are all tempted to invert the admonition in James 1:19 and become “slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger.” The virtual world is a gift of God’s common grace to us, filled with much opportunity for salt-and-light witness. But the disembodied medium of communication — so efficient for quick comments and tweets and posts — can sometimes facilitate forms of self-promotion, one-upmanship, defensiveness, and harshness that at the very least tend to be more restrained in face-to-face interaction.
TT: You have co-edited with Kelly Kapic two new editions of works by John Owen. Why should Christians today care what a seventeenth century English theologian had to say?
JT: The short answer is that Owen knew God and the gospel personally and experientially, and he was able to convey these truths not only at the highest levels of theological insight but also with pastoral warmth and sensitivity. It’s interesting to note that both J. I. Packer and Tim Keller point to Owen’s writings as the thing God used to save them from spiritual shipwreck.
One of my favorite quotes from Owen is that it does no good to contend for the faith “unless we find the power of the truths abiding in our own hearts, and have a continual experience of their necessity and excellency in our standing before God and our communion with him.” It’s quotes like these that led Sinclair Ferguson to say: “There is constantly in Owen, even when we are in the thick of him (and some of his writing is dense indeed) a doxological motive and motif. If we can persevere with his style (which becomes easier the longer we persevere), he will not fail to bring us to the feet of Jesus.”
TT: Aside from John Owen, which theologians have influenced you the most and why?
JT: John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards would be among the most influential dead heroes: the French Reformer for his relentless faithfulness to the biblical text and his ability to communicate complex truth with clarity and brevity; the New England Puritan for his zeal for God and godliness, along with his creative attempt to work within the Reformed tradition. Both men loved the glory of God and basked in their union with Christ through the gospel.
Among the living influencers, John Piper and R.C. Sproul stand out. When I was first wrestling with the question of predestination in my college days, I wrote down a list of my top questions and sent an email to two organizations: Desiring God Ministries and Ligonier Ministries. Both were gracious enough to help me. These ministries, and the men who founded them, opened up a whole new world to me, and I’ve never been the same since.
TT: From your perspective working with Crossway, what contribution does Christian publishing have to make to the church?
JT: One of my favorite quotes is from the acclaimed novelist (and OPC churchman) Larry Woiwode: “There is rugged terrain ahead for those who are constitutionally incapable of referring to the paths marked out by wise and spirit-filled cartographers over the centuries.” This is true not only across the centuries but also in our contemporary time. In God’s providence, he has provided publishers who preserve the insights of teachers of God’s Word. So, for example, my children will likely never have the opportunity to sit in Dr. Sproul’s living room to hear him tell a children’s story or sit in the pews at Saint Andrew’s. But through the printed word, the next generation — and even our children’s children — will be able to “hear” this wonderful teaching. If publishers like Crossway are doing their job correctly, then Christian publishing can be a complement to and a resource for Christ’s church in order to build up His body and edify His bride.
TT: What impact do you believe that e-readers will have on thee future of book publishing?
JT: The world of publishing is changing, and things will continue to change — but no one knows exactly what the future will look like or what the ramifications will be. It certainly affects every aspect of publishing when you have a “book” that doesn’t need to be printed, shipped, or kept in stock. The possibilities are endless: Will some publishers sell individual chapters at a very cheap rate? Will someone figure out a seamless way to integrate audio books and e-books? Will libraries let users “check out” an e-book? Will writers stop using footnotes? Will independent bookstores eventually cease to exist?
Marshall McLuhan’s observation that “the medium is the message” was obviously an overstatement, but there’s no doubt that digital media will continue to impact the way in which content is both conceived and processed. We will always have with us two extremes: those who refuse to recognize the opportunities that this new technology creates and those who are so aggressive in adopting and advocating for the latest creation that they cannot see what we might unintentionally lose in the process. I think that the path of wisdom falls somewhere in the middle.
TT: Are there any current projects at Crossway that have you especially excited?
JT: Crossway always has a number of projects in the hopper that get me excited. This spring we’ll publish Matt Chandler’s The Explicit Gospel, a passionate call for our churches to stop assuming the gospel and to proclaim it in all its glory. We’ll also publish Fred Zaspel’s Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in Light of the Gospel, part of a new series that Steve Nichols and I are editing. David Dockery and Timothy George are co-authoring a book called The Great Tradition of Christian Thinking, the inaugural volume in a series of student guides on various college subjects. In the summer we’ll publish Kingdom through Covenant, which will be a massive biblical theology of all the biblical covenants. Then in the winter we’ll begin publishing Leland Ryken’s Christian Guides to the Classics, which will provide Christian analysis of books like The Scarlet Letter, Paradise Lost, Great Expectations, and so on. We at Crossway are grateful beyond measure to partner with so many authors to produce books that we pray will serve and strengthen the church of Jesus Christ.
Justin Taylor is vice president of book publishing and an associate publisher at Crossway. He has edited and contributed to several books, including A God-Entranced Vision of All Things and Reclaiming the Center. Prior to this, he worked at Desiring God in Minneapolis, Minn. He blogs at “Between Two Worlds,” hosted by the Gospel Coalition, and runs the website www.johnowen.org. He, his wife, and their three children are members of New Covenant Bible Church in St Charles, Ill., where he serves as an elder.