Pages

Monday, October 13, 2008

What Then Shall We Say?

Daily I am “meeting” new folks in the blog world. It is, as I have said before, incredibly refreshing and encouraging to connect with others who are stepping out and forging a relationship with God that is unmediated by any human authority. (I am still a bit giddy myself as I continue to apprehend my freedom in this; indeed the freedom that has been there all along, hidden behind tradition and religion.)

In blogging, and reading, and commenting, I have observed a certain trend. It is almost as though there is an unwritten rule. If it were written, it would go something like this:

“Thou shalt not disagree with anything that a fellow blogger or forum poster states as their understanding of truth. Thou shalt leave them be, since they are on their own journey with the Father. If they are in error at all, Father will, at some point, show that to them. Thou shalt not quote scripture so as to in any way disagree, admonish, or warn them of the error they have fallen into. Thou shalt only find those things thou can agree with, and so state them so as to simply encourage the writer, and allow them to carry on in believing a lie.”

It seems to be that whenever there are objections raised in any online arenas, and scripture is used as supporting the argument against some idea or statement in the post, the objector may be labeled as legalistic, or religious. The blogger may gently imply that the commentator is simply at a different place in their journey, and that they were at that place themselves in the past. In many of these exchanges, the actual scriptures mentioned are seldom refuted in a way that could be termed polemic. Most often, they are simply ignored, as personal experience and opinion are re-iterated, making it impossible for any conclusion to be reached that is based on reasoning from the word of God.

I started blogging mainly as a way to express my thoughts as I journeyed away from church attendance and all that it encompassed. I am at a point now, however, where I am re-evaluating my purpose. I have so many questions.

What is my blogging a means to an end to?

Can it replace face to face fellowship?

Do I look to scripture for all the ways I am to relate to brothers and sisters, and try to make that happen online? Is it at all realistic to expect that I can do that?

How important is what I write on my blog, and in comments on others, in the advancement of God’s kingdom and His purposes?

Should I care at all when I see others sliding into what the word of God clearly proves is error?

Are my responsibilities to them the same as they would be with my “real life” brothers and sisters, i.e. that I would be expected to encourage, exhort, admonish, and warn them as I travel with them, love them, and always have their best interests at heart?


My belief is that I AM responsible for my brothers and sisters. It is an accountability FOR them, not so much TO them. I am accountable TO God for how I treat them. The New Testament is full of instructions on how we are to relate to one another. In real life “church” it was difficult to comply to those instructions. If our online relationships are to move beyond what happened “in the building” then it would be obvious to me that we must move beyond polite platitudes and simply being members of an online Mutual Admiration Society. We must be prepared to disagree and admonish in love, and be prepared to defend the truth, even if it may upset the other person. We must also be willing to discuss, be open to learn, and be humble enough to admit when we are wrong. If we simply allow each other to express personal thoughts and feelings, what gain will there be? Freedom of exspression, yes. But we are to be upholders of the truth, and we are to speak the truth to one another, in love.

Maybe you have had similar thoughts. If you have, and have answers, or even if you don’t, please leave your comments. I would appreciate it very much. I am still learning how to go about these things.

12 comments:

RJW said...

The unwritten rule I have observed is if you disagree, don't comment. Stony silence meets a "less than agreeable" post- which makes you paranoid; maybe people just didn't comment, not that they disagreed.

If you do question another's point of view on their blog you will be ridiculed; been there, done that. Won't do THAT again!! Of course, this depends on the blog.

You are to post your opinions on your blog. Not on others. Blog etiquette seems to demand this. If the blog author doesn't shoot you down, their staunch defenders will.Once again, depending on the blog.

Having said all that, there are some blogs more open to "discussion." But most authors are not seeking an online debate. Most people seem to gravitate to like-minded believers, it's just a fact.

When I have something to say that contradicts, not the author, but a a comment, I either e-mail the comment to the author or try not to be too controversial. I feel sure I have offended people. I once commented that Jesus was not a lawbreaker, knowing where some of the other readers stood on the issue. BUT, the author and I had discussed this issue through e-mail and he was OK with it. It was TRUTH!

The two biggest dividing issues are Universalism and Institutional Church.

Personally, I don't care if someone is in IC or not; let's just not knock each other.

Universalism? Nah, I can't go there. I love The Shack; it is a beautiful illustration of God's love for us, but it is a book. Not Scripture. I'm glad the world has discovered "Papa", but what happened to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, hmmm? Sorry, little rant there. Blush, blush... :)

Maureen, you are a quick study and you are correct in everything you say. I do believe that some blogs are more open to discussion. Joel Brueseke's is the most popular, teaching Grace, "open" forum that I know of. Joel is a good guy.

Most of us are posting on what we believe, so we are all at different places in our journey. I appreciate your candidness.

Grace & peace, Jamie

Maureen said...

Thanks so much Jamie. I appreciate all your comments. They ring true, as I consider my blogging experience so far.

It all leaves me wondering, though. It would seem that there are "denominations" in the online world, just as much as in IC. Everyone gravitates to their most comfortable campground. And that was one thing I was frustrated by in IC. Each denomination, and even each church, had its own "flavor", and all others were painted with a broad brush of generalization. For example, when I was in a Pentecostal church, the attitude toward the "non Spirit filled" denominations was that they were boring and legalistic. They didn't "have the Spirit". Conversely, while in my former Brethren assembly, anything "Charismatic" was looked on with suspicion, and emotionalism was frowned on to the point that no one moved at all.

The other thing that I feel strongly about is our responsibility to one another. If I were having coffee with you, and you came out with a statement like "I believe that all people who sincerely want to be good will go to Heaven", should I not lead you to Scripture that firmly denies that belief? If this is a real "fellowship" out here, should we not do the same?

Hmmm..... have to chew on all this for a while.

Thanks again Jamie. You have answered many questions for me.

Sandra said...

Bingo! You hit the nail on the head!
2 Tim. 4:3, 3 "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;"

Stand firm,
Sandy
www.dividingword.net

Leonard said...

Thanks for sharing this Maureen, I'm in a learning curve here too.
Best
Leonard

ps. 3 1/2 reasons why I hate you, "1 1/2 cups butter melted, 2 cups sugar.." Kidding aside that apple cake,, well, YUMMY...
Thanks

Bino M. said...

Like Jamie said, I think the unwritten rule is if you disagree with something one a blog, don't comment. I think people don't comment when they disagree due to two reasons:
1. They don't want to come as offending the author.
2. They don't want to lose their 'approval' by the author and possibly lose his/her readers.

In my case, I have invited people to disagree with me because I know I don't have it all together. But surprisingly, people hesitate to get into disagreement because of the fact that sometime it can take a lot of time and effort to convince the other.

I personally think that we should feel free to disagree (if necessary) because healthy exchange of ideas often cause us to learn and understand issues from many different angles.

Maureen said...

Bino you said:

"I personally think that we should feel free to disagree (if necessary) because healthy exchange of ideas often cause us to learn and understand issues from many different angles."

I couldn't AGREE with you more. I mean, we all have brains, don't we? And we all have different ideas, experiences, knowledge, wisdom that can edify and enlighten others. We are a BODY that is supposed to CONNECT. If we all just huddle with those of totally like mind, we will be just as narrow minded as the most denominationalized Christian out there.

Like yourself, I certainly know that I don't have it all together. I would welcome discussion on things. Even the best of friends can disagree, and remain friends. And who knows, we might even change our mind on some things.

Thanks for your input!

Leonard said...

Just listening into these conversations is a big encouragement to me.
Thanks all.
Grace
Leonard

Aida said...

I think it's healthy to have varying thoughts and opinions. If everyone agrees about everything, something is wrong.

I've posted dissenting comments on other people's blogs and others have posted dissenting comments on mine. Sometimes we've ended up agreeing and sometimes we haven't but we've always ended up still as friends. I don't tend to be a debater by nature so I'll express my thoughts once, maybe twice and then I'm done. I don't push it but I'm like that in all types of discussions.

I think the key is how the comment is made. If it's done in a respectful and courteous manner, I've never seen it be a problem.

Keystone said...

Imagine my surprise to find "Rules" in the nonlegalistic society of Free Believers.

Looks like a little bit of out of the pan......
and into the fire.

In the real world, people communicate as best they can.

In the written world, miscommunication is inevitable. Comments and feedback are critical, for emotion is difficult to convey in written words.

Bloggers who do not allow comment should really go into Word (Microsoft) and journalize. After all, it is only for YOU.

Bloggers who only hang around geeks, nerds, jocks, the beautiful, brains, and such groups are ok, but really should drop all Christian blogging talk. There is no difference from the World when you do this.

I am newer in this sector of the internet than the blog author here. But I have to say, that the observations made are astute and pretty much what I see too,....
as I read around the rosy.

Maureen said...

Aida thanks for stopping by. Yes it is so important to be respectful and courteous. Maybe also important to make an extra effort to convey those characteristics, as comments can easily be misunderstood in this form of dialogue.

Keystone "hello!" Nice to meet you.

I have thought the same thing about having "rules". It is the same as in "church". Nobody wants to disagree; that would be "divisive". In church, we can fall into the attitude of accepting everything that comes from the pulpit as truth, without finding out for ourselves. So we see different churches with different truths. It's like that out here in Blogsville also.

I am still learning, still finding out just what the purpose is of posting and commenting. My conviction is that as followers of Jesus Christ, we have a wonderful opportunity to learn, teach, encourage, fellowship and grow via blogs and online forums, articles etc. I don't think it can take the place of face to face fellowship, but it can fill in some gaps for folks who aren't connected physically to very many brothers and sisters.

I hope that as I continue blogging and visiting other blogs, I will have plenty of opportunities to share from my heart those things of Christ that are precious to me, even if they aren't what others would agree with. And I hope that those who don't agree will feel free to say so, without fear of offending. I would hope that if someone feels I am way off base in something that I say, that they will engage in discussion with me. We should have that freedom, and should care enough about each other to disagree, even if it is uncomfortable.

William said...

Maureen,
You wrote
"What is my blogging a means to an end to?" & "How important is what I write on my blog, and in comments on others, in the advancement of God’s kingdom and His purposes?"

If you stop and think, you did not take up blogging again, initially, with the same focus you have now. I suggested you do so because you are an aspiring writer, and because you have wisdom to share on whatever your daily experiences are. However, I am discovering that to be read and noticed one does need to find a theme and stick to it, so perhaps your new focus on Relational Christianity issues is good after all.

Personally, I think much good comes from your blogging. Persons like me need to know there are others out there going through similar experiences, and having similar perspectives and reactions. Your blogging is a great source of encouragement to me. However, you must not morph into writing to an audience. You must write what God puts on your heart, as He would have you write it, not to please anyone.

You wrote:
"Can it replace face to face fellowship?"

I think we have already agreed that regular face-to-face meetings and/or assemblies cannot be forsaken. If you are out of that for a season, that is okay.

You wrote:
"Do I look to scripture for all the ways I am to relate to brothers and sisters, and try to make that happen online? Is it at all realistic to expect that I can do that?"

Only in the screwed up world we live in today could anybody ever conclude that there is such a thing as too much of God's word. Jesus certainly didn't feel that way. Every word of God is like a petal on a rose, a beautiful and fragrant thing. Before there were things, there was God word. Only God and his word, and saved believers, are eternal; everything else will pass away.

You wrote:
"Should I care at all when I see others sliding into what the word of God clearly proves is error?...
Are my responsibilities to them the same as they would be with my “real life” brothers and sisters, i.e. that I would be expected to encourage, exhort, admonish, and warn them as I travel with them, love them, and always have their best interests at heart?...If our online relationships are to move beyond what happened “in the building” then it would be obvious to me that we must move beyond polite platitudes and simply being members of an online Mutual Admiration Society. We must be prepared to disagree and admonish in love, and be prepared to defend the truth, even if it may upset the other person. We must also be willing to discuss, be open to learn, and be humble enough to admit when we are wrong. If we simply allow each other to express personal thoughts and feelings, what gain will there be? Freedom of expression, yes. But we are to be upholders of the truth, and we are to speak the truth to one another, in love."

I think one reason certain persons don't like to be challenged is they really are not very sure of their position. It's scary to be challenged when you are not sure what you are talking about, and it's hard work to look up supporting Scripture and sources after the fact, to support a position, especially if those supports cannot be found.

In short, there is a lot of hot air and uninformed opinion on these blogs. Persons don't seem to realize that a position you assert with an acquaintance at Starbucks, over coffee, is a lot different than posting a position, or point-of-view, for the whole world to examine. A written word is permanent or semi-permanent; a spoken word often vanishes. Perhaps this truth could make some of these flighty bloggers appreciate what a tremendous thing God was doing when he put down in writing words that He is prepared to stand by forever.

It may be Maureen that you, we, (
God's servants) are in the midst of a battle for soul of the RC blogging on the Internet. Certain persons want to characterize persons who dare to quote God's word, and state dissenting opinions, as legalists and fractious. This attack on God's servants would certainly characterize those of a liberal theological persuasion - they don't know what they are talking about, but cloak their ignorance behind words like "love", and "peace", and "tolerance". Has it never occurred to you Maureen that Satan could, and is, using the whole "Love is God" mantra to cloak himself, and get into places he has no business setting foot? Have you forgotten about "wolves in sheep’s clothing"?

Don't be blinded by those who demand "civility", "tolerance",
"speech in love" as they preach and teach with words that lead to destruction.

In my mind any speech that refrains from profanity and ad hominen attacks is civil. If a blogger can't stand up before well founded arguments than he had better stop blogging.

Maureen said...

William:
“ Every word of God is like a petal on a rose, a beautiful and fragrant thing. Before there were things, there was God word. Only God and his word, and saved believers, are eternal; everything else will pass away. “

This is beautifully put.

When I began blogging, I wanted to connect with others, be encouraged, and encourage them in return. That has happened, and I am grateful. I do write, and it seems that writing is somewhat pointless if no one ever reads what is written. So blogging is a means to that end.

I am finding some “opinions” out there that scare me. God’s word is sometimes overruled in favour of personal opinion and experience. You make a good point about the written word vs. what is spoken in a conversation. It does hold more weight, and indicates a greater commitment to what has been expressed. When opinions are expressed on a blog, they are fair game to be agreed with or challenged. That should be understood. If I come across an opinion that blatantly contradicts what God has said in Scripture, I cannot help but express His opinion on the subject, as stated in His word, which in the end, is the only opinion that matters.

I am glad you are encouraged by what I write. I have been told that a writer should always know there audience, and use that as their starting point. I agree that God must direct in this area. He certainly knows the audience better than we do. Hopefully He is directing each one of us, to some degree, in what we post. And hopefully if I write anything that denies an essential truth in scripture, then I will be challenged as well.

“I think one reason certain persons don't like to be challenged is they really are not very sure of their position. It's scary to be challenged when you are not sure what you are talking about, and it's hard work to look up supporting Scripture and sources after the fact, to support a position, especially if those supports cannot be found.”

Yes it’s true they may not be sure of their position, and are only expressing an opinion without knowing all the facts. In my mind that is a perfect opportunity for others to share what they have learned. Not in a confrontational way, hopefully. But with grace and respect. We are all learning along the way. We should be keeping an eye on each other, if we are to be faithful to what God has called us to as His Body.