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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Is Blogging Bad for the Church?

Over at Out of Ur, Dr. Craig Blomberg publishes a rather scathing view of the use of blogs (like MMI and Out of Ur) and the church.  I'd really like to hear your input.  It's probably something you'll either really agree or really disagree with.  What do you think?  Craig writes...

At first glance, one might argue that a blog is no different than an e-mail, or a letter to an editor in a traditional newspaper or magazine, or those old-fashioned communiqués that were hand-written and sent through something now called snail-mail. For private individuals who daily record their thoughts and experiences, it corresponds closely to what used to be called a journal or a diary. There can be good ones and bad ones, carefully and creatively written or barely intelligible to anyone but their authors. They can contain profound perspectives worth reading and pondering or banal drivel that at best wastes your time and at worst pollutes your mind. But all those options have always been possibilities with older forms of writing as well.

Is there anything distinctive about blogging? The most obvious answer is the ease of access in getting one’s remarks “published.” A traditional letter went only to its addressée. E-mails go at most to a personally selected distribution lists. Magazines and newspapers reject numerous “letters to the editor” for every one they publish. Diaries and journals have normally been intended for the author’s eyes only. But when I read a friend’s daily blog, all I have to do is click on “X Comments,” type my response, and within seconds it appears on my computer screen as something anyone in the world can imbibe with the right web address and technology. True, some blog sites have filters to screen out certain language or pictures, while others have real people who may decide to censor correspondence. But the percentage of comments that still make it into (virtual) print still seems unprecedented.

And what of the choice to solicit responses to a blog posting on a particularly controversial subject? With unprecedented ease of access comes the temptation to “shoot from the hip” and respond with little thought or care for how one comes across. Are “Christian” blogs noticeably better in this respect? Or does the lack of a filter for all but the worst of responses almost inherently set up the readership for having to deal with extremists (in either tone or content) on both sides of a divisive issue? Of course, one can learn a lot from seeing how the far ends of a spectrum react. But is the church of Jesus Christ edified and built up? Are non-Christians who choose to peruse the conversation likely to be attracted to the faith? Will mediators and peacemakers win out over the rabble rousers? I’m not yet convinced that the answers to any of these questions are affirmative.

Besides, what messages are we sending when we allow bloggers or those who respond to them to post almost any linguistic utterance at will for all the world to read? To the undiscriminating, surely the answer is that even the most meaningless, intimate, hateful, crude or careless thought deserves an outlet enabling others to talk back. From a non-theological perspective, this is the ultimate demeaning of human language. From a Christian perspective, it may be an offense to the Word who alone gives human communication grace. But then, you might not be reading these words if it weren’t for a blog site. So am I overreacting?

FOR DISCUSSION:  What do you think?  Is Craig speaking the truth or is he overreacting?

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January 5, 2006 in Blogging How-Tos | Permalink

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I think that the comment system used in Blogging today is problematic. Many people who speak up do so with an agenda. Too often they often respond without reading what others have written, or sometimes without even reading the original post.

Unfortunately the comments on Christian blogs are sometimes even more venomous than you find on political blogs. I think this is because political blogs tend to attract like minded people, while Christian blogs attract very passionate, but fairly diverse crowd.

I would rather move away from the multiple chronological comments, and instead, allow each author to write an essay stating all of their points. Or better yet, have them write on their own blog, and trackback.

I love reading this blog. Todd posts some outstanding articles, and I would be unlikely to run accross them on my own. I have learned to avoid reading the comments for the most part. In my opinion, most of the comments are predictable, devisive, and uninsightful. It is not worth enduring all of the negativism to harvest the few gems that may be buried.

Posted by: Josh R | Jan 5, 2006 7:12:29 AM

[But is the church of Jesus Christ edified and built up?] I think it is on blogs like this one, which is designed for Christian leaders to pass ideas and thoughts back and forth. Occasionally the back and forth between people of very divergent points is a little irritating, but I still grow from reading it. I think others do, too.

The big challenge there is simply that a lot of people, I think, know what they're going to write as a comment before they read the article, because they are only seeing things through the lens of their own agenda.

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Jan 5, 2006 7:54:54 AM

WOW--great post...and awesome thoughts on this matter.

I heard Rob Bell say it best, "The internet is a place for cowards." Well spoken...the danger in blogging is that it provides a way for people to attack others and tear them apart with absolutely no accountability.

I have personally experienced this from people who are angry with me because I do not believe exactly what they believe...and so instead of trying to get to know me they tear me down--which is the easy thing to do I guess.

The thing that bothers me is that Jesus said that others would know we are His by the way we love one another...and if non-Christians were to check out the way some people are ripping godly men like Rick Warren and Rob Bell...they would be SO turned off to anything the church had to say.

I love to blog because it is a chance for me to share my thoughts and feelings--to be transparent and maybe help someone. However, I never intended for my thoughts to be the point of someone's attacks and criticism.

I did have someone ask me the other day, "What if Jesus were alive today--do you think there would be blogs attacking Him?"

Posted by: Perry | Jan 5, 2006 9:13:14 AM

If on a blog, such as MMI, people would put their ministry line in with their signature, they would watch more closely what they say, because it reflects on them and their ministry.

If they use a simple handle, they they are free to leave a crank message, like a crank call.

...Bernie
http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/247

Posted by: Bernie Dehler | Jan 5, 2006 12:10:45 PM

The answer isn't to run from new forms of communication... it's for those who are pure in thought and passionate about Christ to add their voice to the conversation. Blogs (and other forms of communication) are like the Mars Hill of our day. Conversations are going on... you (like Paul) can observe what others are about. You can choose to speak or choose to move on (regardless of your opinion). For those wanting to share something encouraging, loving, Christ-honoring... the forum isn't the problem... it's amoral... the forum is simply that-- a forum-- a vessel.

As for the blog world, we must see it for what it is... a new method of communication... a new Mars Hill. Paul was given the opportunity to talk about 'The Unknown God'. We must assume someone could have said something in the crowd. Does that mean that Paul should keep quiet? No. Obviously when a 'coward' [as PN and RB call 'em] shouts out from the crowd so the speaker cannot see his face, the crowd still knows that the person is a coward and trouble maker.

Blogs provide the same venue. People can observe ignorance veiled as 'what's best for the Kingdom'. Those inspecting our faith can seperate the real from the fake. I think we overreact sometimes by assuming everyone who claims the name of Christ IS Christian. It's not the SHOULD know you by your love... It's they WILL know.

In Christianity we often confuse the two. We assume that everyone who knows a few verses is actually a Christ-follower. Many are not. Many are self-followers who use God's word as a tool of aggression towards other Christians. This is unfortunate but honestly I personally wonder if these types of people really have Christ or do they have a substitute religion.

Christians keep posting, keep loving, keep embracing new ways to speak the truth in love and "DO THIS WITH GENTLENESS AND RESPECT."

Posted by: Tally | Jan 5, 2006 1:24:58 PM

Craig certainly brings up some important points, and he didn't mention some others (e.g., the anonymity factor). In answer to his "ultimate" question [But is the church of Jesus Christ edified and built up?], let me put that back in the context of the New Testament:

Was the church edified and built up by everything that Jesus' own disciples said and did? How about when James and John argued over the heavenly seating chart? Or when Peter whacked the soldier's ear in the garden? Or when he denied knowing Jesus (which I sense was probably more than an off-the-cuff "hell no!")? Clearly we, as fallen people, do not always build up the church in our words and actions.

Does the internet change that in any way? Not really, except for expanding the audience. As believers we must be on constant guard for how our lives reflect on God's glory; the ease of mass communication via e-mail and the internet gives us a new context in which to maintain that watchfulness.

Yet with the power for dishonoring God comes also the immense power for good, for glorifying him, for drawing people literally at the ends of the earth toward him.

Maybe this is a good time to ask, "what would Jesus do?" Jesus was primarily a small group guy, but he also taught thousands on occasion; I think today he would be more likely to communicate via e-mail than by blogging, but he'd probably post a few comments on others' blogs.

What about Paul? Definitely a guy with a vision for the whole world. I have no doubt that Paul would harness all the power of the internet to communicate the message of God's grace to as wide an audience as possible.

In fact, I think I see a Sunday drama coming on...!

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Jan 5, 2006 1:35:03 PM

Concerning the Church of Christ,

The Church consist only of those that have obeyed the gospel and worship God in spirit and worship God in truth. The church is a word used to identify those that are saved from the second death, the eternal death in sin. These members conist of the faithful servants of Jesus Christ.

The question remains will blogging effect the growth of Christ's Church. You see the Church of Christ has been the same since it was founded on the day of Pentacost (acts 2). I really do not see how anything worldly could prevail against it. Christ himself said that the gates of hell could not hold the church, the church has power over sin.

how could anything of the world, like the internet, effect the power of the church of Chirst?

Posted by: Claborn | Jan 5, 2006 4:18:30 PM

Why do blog owners post articles and allow comments?

To get comments. Now that comments are being made, why would they NEED to be censored, except for blatant misuse like cursing or abusive name calling. Most of the reasons brought forth however seem more personal than professional because they either don't like the comment or disagree with it.

I guess I could understand if they were private blogs but these two in the article are public. Why censor people? (other than to make a judgement)

Don't judge whether the person is being a good witness or edifying others, isn't this something God will judge the person for?

Posted by: BeHim | Jan 5, 2006 5:38:04 PM

Just seems like a rant to me. Do we have to pay attention to every rant? Don't like comments, turn them off.

Posted by: adam | Jan 6, 2006 8:01:20 AM

Yeah, Adam, but I really enjoy reading the comments of people, especially people who disagree with me. I learn a lot from those.

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Jan 6, 2006 9:11:56 AM

Me too, and the ones that are defaming or weird, I just delete!

Posted by: adam | Jan 6, 2006 11:39:12 AM

"how could anything of the world, like the internet, effect the power of the church of Chirst?"

I agree that the church will prevail and be victorious in the end, however, my greatest concern is what it does in the minds of non-believers. It's the one step forward, two steps back principle.

"Don't judge whether the person is being a good witness or edifying others, isn't this something God will judge the person for?"

Of course God will judge each individual, but what if you were sitting in a restaraunt and others were listening to your conversation? Would we be so quick with our opinions knowing that it might have eternal impact on others around us?

I like blogging. I think it's a great way to communicate and I can only hope by some of the comments that I read, that those outside the church aren't reading what we say to each other and how we say it.

Oh well, That's my opinion. Be gentle in your response, others are reading.


Posted by: Ed Mooneyhan | Jan 7, 2006 11:01:02 AM

I moderate the comments on all my blogs for exactly this reason. That being said, however, the only time I don't allow a comment is when it is comment spam. I haven't had any comments with foul language yet - I suppose I would just edit out the language and approve the comment.

I think it's very important for the unbelieving world to see that the church is open to conversation and disagreement, and blog comments provide a vehicle for that.

In the first-century church, the typical gathering of the church occurred in homes. In that time, what we would think of the living room portion of a house was actually open to the street, and it was perfectly acceptable in the culture of the day for a stranger to walk into the living room to see what was happening (that's the background of 1 Corinthians 14:23-25).

In this way, unbelievers were exposed to the conversation among believers. They were exposed to Christian community. And that exposure to Christian community is foundational to effective outreach (cf. John 17:21-23).

Blogging and the system of comments that usually goes with it is a way of exposing and involving the world in the church's conversation.

Posted by: Frank Johnson | Jan 7, 2006 12:58:43 PM

[Of course God will judge each individual, but what if you were sitting in a restaraunt and others were listening to your conversation? Would we be so quick with our opinions knowing that it might have eternal impact on others around us?]

Do you mean like talking bad about others and spreading gossip or are you suggesting that the conversation might keep them from being saved?

[I like blogging. I think it's a great way to communicate and I can only hope by some of the comments that I read, that those outside the church aren't reading what we say to each other and how we say it.]

Are those outside the church offended by what we say to each other and how we say it or are you offended by the comments?

The world mocks Believers no matter what they say and how they say it (unless of course they are in agreement - which Biblically may not be the best place to be "agreeing with the world") but if an unbeliever is offended, what is he/she to do?

"If your brother has offended you, you are to...."

Trying to please the world with our speech (keep things "positive") is not very edifying but coming together in unity of Scripture is essential for all Believers.

Posted by: BeHim | Jan 7, 2006 6:55:48 PM

Is blogging hurting the church... It is not hurting it anymore than Jim Bakker,Jimmy Swagert, Paula White, Binn Hinn, & Rod Parsley have with their twisted theroies, theology, lies, and deception.
Have we as Christians hurt the Church absolutly. We have become so comfortable in coming to church to eat dinners, all types of programs, and we give to all the mission funds, but we will not walk out the front door to hug our neighbour when they are hurting, buying them grocery's, paying a bill for them. Then we treat them like they have a disease. So how is blogging hurting the church. We have done a greater service to Christ and everything he done. This message is not for everyone, just to those who it fits. This is only my opinion and comment.

Posted by: Clairvoyent 1 | Jan 8, 2006 5:07:19 PM

I'm not sure if our blogging is going to keep anyone out of the kingdom and yes we will be mocked no matter what. And no I'm not affended by how we communicate.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there are certain conversations that only Christians understand. i.e. If I have concerns about a brother or sister's ministry I wouldn't have a discussion with the unchurched about it. I think it's a contradiction in their minds when we disagree about Godly things. We understand that unity does not mean that we agree on everthing, but the unchurched just thinks we can't get along.

Thanks for your comments.

Posted by: Ed Mooneyhan | Jan 8, 2006 7:49:30 PM

Clairvoyent 1,

Do you have a personal relationship with the five people you just assasinated verbally and accused the way you did? Have you gone to them personally and told them what you perceive to be their sins and called them into accountability and repentance? If so, then perhaps there could be some justification for what you just wrote, but even then I find it very difficult to see how your assault here serves any higher purpose than those things you accused them all of.

I am not saying there is no error in any of their doings, and, in fact it is obvious that two of them have been publicly exposed in their sins, but it appears that what the others are most guilty of is being in a camp of Christianity that your own experience holds great animosity for.

It was you who said...

"If I have concerns about a brother or sister's ministry I wouldn't have a discussion with the unchurched about it. I think it's a contradiction in their minds when we disagree about Godly things. We understand that unity does not mean that we agree on everthing, but the unchurched just thinks we can't get along."

You need to think about it because you violated your own words with your public accusation of these people in the very same post. Unless you are prepared to say that because they do not agree with YOUR THEOLOGY, they are therefore not Christians, and by so doing suggest there is some other Gospel requirement for salvation than that by grace through faith...those were YOUR brothers and sister in the Lord you just attacked in the name of UNITY!

Posted by: Jim Eaton | Jan 8, 2006 11:48:00 PM

I think blogging is good for the church. Just today as I sat in services names and people I never would've known came to mind as I prayed for the body of Christ. We are all in this together and it's great to be able to come together even with our diferrences and say Jesus is Lord! Amen!

Posted by: ld | Jan 9, 2006 12:48:27 AM

Jim no one was assasinated anyone, I was using them as an example. Oh yea Jim get over it brother.

Posted by: Clairvoyent 1 | Jan 9, 2006 7:47:36 AM

I would like to speak to two things :

1. The idea that in the unrestricted realm of blogs, any person could get on and write whatever they like has merit. It speaks to the need for a filter method or maybe even the responsibility of editing a blog before it is "published" onto the web.

2. The issue of the introduction of profane or even worse heretical viewpoints is also a grave concern. However, in a day and age where writing a book and publishing it yourself is becoming more the norm, we are seeing more heresies in print and very little in the check and balance department.

The blog is a two-edged sword. On one hand we see it could give forum to house internal debates over doctrinal issues or even everyday issues with life. On the other it could be a mistakenly open door for crackpots to vent their trash on Christian grounds and lead someone astray.

I feel the real issue is with the one wielding the tool. Just as a hammer can be used to create or destroy so also can the blog be used to creatively debate when wielded in the right manner. The content needs to be checked regularly and when heresy rears its ugly head it needs to be dealt with in BIG BOLD letters by the blog manager. Whether a non-Christian comes and is offended really comes down to control of the site and to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Is not God in control of everything? Does not the Holy Spirit lead His people to where they need to be?

It all falls on the shoulders of the blog manager. When we all stand before God on the judgement day we will all answer for the things we have done in Jesus name. I believe that careful scrutiny and very much prayer is way to go.
Thank you.

Posted by: Don | Jan 10, 2006 12:46:41 PM

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