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Wednesday, January 06, 2016

I Almost Wish You’d Stop Posting Altogether

Complaints, complaints. You always get them, don’t you.

These are not complaints about Coming Untrue, I hasten to add (though we may be overdue for a few). No, I plucked them from the comments section of another evangelical blog where they were presumably destined to disappear quietly into the ether. The writer of the piece being critiqued prudently elected not to respond to his critic in kind.

But such sentiments are the sort of thing generally expressed by self-designated representatives of the status quo whenever anyone proposes a change to, well … anything at all.

The statement “I almost wish you’d stop posting altogether” does not rise to the level of censorship, but it’s the same impulse sugar-coated with just enough goodwill to keep the reader from choking on it on the way down.

As for me, I don’t wish anyone would stop posting. Not even the complainer.

Here’s the whole comment for context. I disagree with much of the content but thoroughly affirm the value of principled dissent:
“Some of this also fosters discontent, dear brother. You are posting opinions (some good, some not so good) and tacking on a scripture reference at the end that may or may not apply. I almost wish you’d stop posting things. Post what changes you want, and what it means to open discussions (women speaking?) and be more specific. These generalizations are used by some less mature ones to foster their discontent and other things. This is not a scriptural pattern. It’s the same thing I saw with your elder criticism. Dear brother, I almost wish you’d stop posting altogether.”
I’m not looking to club baby seals so I won’t link to the original post, but the commenter’s presuppositions are worthy of some consideration:

“You Are Posting Opinions”

The commenter is using the word “opinion” the same way many people do: contemptuously, as in “That’s just your opinion”. But an opinion is of exactly the same value as the truth it expresses; no more, no less. An entirely truthful opinion is as good as hard data.

There’s nothing wrong with having an opinion and expressing it. When the Lord said to the questioning lawyer, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” that was precisely what he was asking for: an opinion.

The issue is really this: does the writer of the post faithfully and accurately handle the scripture he quotes. If he does, his “opinion” is really God’s opinion.

“You Might Foster Discontent!”

Discontent has been an identifiable and regrettably common feature of the life of the people of God since Israel in the desert. Discontent is not going anywhere, at least in the short term. When it gets truly horrible, the Lord tends to take care of it in his own inimitable way.

But when today’s leaders fret that someone might “foster discontent”, I wonder what it is they really fear? The godly among them may worry that the Lord God may break out in judgment upon the presumptuous, and that’s a fine and virtuous protective impulse.

If that’s what it is.

But I fear that’s not what’s driving most would-be censors: they are, I suspect, more concerned that they might have to deal with actual scriptural and spiritual arguments which they are ill-equipped to handle.

So they wish you’d stop posting things.

Don’t. Please. Some godly discontent may be just what we need right now.

“Be More Specific”

Specificity is not a bad idea, if that’s what is really wanted. I share the commenter’s dislike of generalizations. But sometimes the problem is not really the writer. Sometimes the problem is simply paranoia on the part of the reader.

Like the query, “Women speaking?”

Take my word for it: the poor fellow who wrote the piece being criticized said nothing whatsoever about women, let alone women speaking. Not a word. It simply wasn’t there. But that straw man was used to characterize his appeal for change and thereby attempt to devalue and dismiss it.

There is enough brazenly false doctrine on the Web to provide believers interested in and capable of rebutting error with a new target every few seconds for the rest of our lives without jumping on every generalization that might potentially be misused on some future occasion. Believe me, the moment a demonstrably false idea is floated, there will be no end of Christians willing to engage with it. At least on internet. The local church? Maybe not so much.

But a good, biblical idea can sustain plenty of honest inquiry, and honest inquiry involves giving the benefit of the doubt and not reading into the text things that are not there.

“This Is Not a Scriptural Pattern”

That’s a great line, but it needs a follow up. The commenter’s point, if I follow it, is that generalizations are not scriptural. Generally.

Okay, since scripture is the metric, find me a verse. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but what is there in the Bible that tells you there is no value in a general statement? Here are the “generalizations” that this particular writer has laid out:
  • Urgency to pray.
  • Desire for fresh Bible study.
  • Rediscovering biblical shepherding.
  • More than just doing church.
  • Evangelism that relates.
  • Opening up discussions.
  • Willingness to change.
  • Lay down the weapons.
Each of these general points was backed up in the original article by what I thought was a pretty relevant verse, and all are food for thought.

How We Learn

How do you learn? I know how I learn best. I learn best when I disagree with something that has just been said.

When everything coming from the page, pulpit, speaker or screen (or even from the chair on the other side of the living room) sounds more or less correct, I tend to doze. I miss things. I don’t engage.

When something sounds vaguely heretical, I prick up my ears. I can’t help it. That’s just how it works. I dive into the Word. I start praying. I try to figure out the right answer. All those good things happen. Sometimes it turns out I’m wrong, and what was said was in fact entirely orthodox. That’s great: I’ve learned something. Other times the speaker has said something that is inconsistent with the teaching of the word of God. That’s great too. I’ve learned something.

So I thank the Lord for the people who post opinions — even wrong opinions — and force me to react to them. God bless them, every one.

They Must Be Silenced

Now there are conditions established in scripture where it is appropriate to shut down certain individuals. Paul tells Titus:
“There are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.”
But surely Paul is not suggesting sharp rebukes for elders who write blog posts that generalize a bit too much for a reader’s tastes and leave open the possibility of having their words misused (if that’s even what happened here). He’s referring to “insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers” explicitly teaching false doctrine for financial advantage.

More importantly, censorship (even self-censorship) is not Paul’s solution: engagement is. Note how this “silencing” is to be accomplished. Paul goes on to say, “Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith”.

The answer to bad doctrine is better doctrine, not duct tape or the delete key.

Hypercritical Bloggers

believe the word of God is more than robust enough to sustain multiple attacks from its most committed critics. It does not require the silencing of those who happen to dissent from the current interpretations extant in the churches. In fact, Paul says, “there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized”.

Hmm. That’s a scary thought. Further, that’s a whole lot of work putting a genuine, scriptural argument before the people of God in order that the truth might be recognized for what it is.

The word of God does not seem to require that people “stop posting”. It requires that we be spiritual enough to “demolish arguments”.

Really, come on folks, let’s have it out. In a good way.

2 comments :

  1. Amen! I hope you don't mind buy I linked this article in my reply to the original post mentioned in your article. The last thing we need Godly men and women, who's desire is to see the church grow, stop what they are doing to promote just that.

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  2. Thanks David. I didn't link to it myself because I'm not looking to push an agenda, but I'm happy to defer to the judgment of others.

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