"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

An Amoral Tool in the Hands of a Moral People

Donnie Starkey, a church planter in Paraguay, recently left a comment on my blog with a couple of sentences that really struck a chord in me. I have summarized what Donnie wrote below with (transitional words) supplied by me.

Donnie writes, "I began to weigh the pros and cons of the blog culture. I came to (a conclusion). . .(A) blog is a means of communication. It is a tool. Tools are amoral, meaning that they are neither good nor bad. Even the words of the sacred scripture can be twisted to accomplish the desired end of someone evil. That does not make it a bad book. So, blogging is a tool of communication. . . (and)communication is good. We need healthy communication within the Christian world."

From the beginning I have desired for Grace and Truth to be used for the edification of people and the good of our Southern Baptist Convention. Issues have been discussed, some thoroughly, but any personal attacks have been inappropriate.

Blogs are here to stay. May those of us who blog and are a part of the SBC make sure we use this amoral tool of communication for good purposes. For the most part I think we are doing a good job of this.

In His Grace,


Wade

16 comments:

Ryan Wayson said...

Amen. This is a good point AND we need to be aware also of how our typing comes across. Without the use of emoticons or some other means of presenting the "feeling" of you words, there can be a tendency to read things in the worst possible light. This leads to confusion and disension. From my experience, when it is Christian to Christian we ought to assume the best intentions on the part of the sender. Yet, whether the sender is Christian or not ought not change our reaction...that is one of love and gentleness.

To see how this has been done well by someone on the BoT, check out my blog. strivinforthefaith.blogspot.com Blessings!

Roger Simpson said...

Wade:

I agree that (a) blogs are here to stay, and (b) they are a good thing.

As they relate to SBC life, these BLOGS animate discussion and to some extent, at least, obviate the need for "political machines". To the extent that it is possible to quickly disseminate ideas (and get feedback) it is no longer so necessary to to have an "apparatus".

If Judge Pressler would have had a BLOG 20 years ago he might not have had to have setup an operation in his garage to mail out bulletins. He would not have had to enlist a crew of young helpers to prepare the bulletins for mailing.

Who knows? Maybe he would not have had to go, in person, to New Orleans for the now legendary Cafe Du Monde meeting.

BLOGS are more transparent because everyone sees what is happening in real time. So the perception that a policical machine is working behind the scenes is short circuited.

With a BLOG, Judge Pressler (and his team) could have still have engineered the conservative resergence without some of the negative hangover due to the perception that he was running a well-oiled political machine.

My analysis is that BLOGGING would have enabled the conservative resergence to have been accomplished without so much personal turmoil on both sides.

BLOGGING does not remove all disagreement, but at least to some extent the near-real-time give and take helps flatten things out.

Bryan Riley said...

I agree with what is said above and in your post. Raw, cold words, without eye to eye contact and body language can be very difficult to interpret and can be very harsh. We must strive not only for edifying words here, consistent with the scripture's teaching and Jesus' love, but we must also not forget to make personal relationships (in person) whenever possible.

GeneMBridges said...

The printing press caused the same problems for the Establishment in its day. Is the printing press evil? Of course not. I simply cannot understand why folks would call the exercise of free speech an evil thing. Many of us post under our real names, so it's not as if we're hiding who we are. You'd think folks would view that as a favor, because once your words are out there, they are there for everybody to see, record, and respond to them.

What really amazes me is the number of folks who say they aren't concerned about blogs but then drop comments about blogs and bloggers in interviews and speeches and/or have folks they know monitor the blogs.

ewinwe said...

ah, a post that is close to my heart. short - sweet - to the point and ripe with promise (of healthy discussion!).

i would echo the comments of one who asked if the printing press were evil. no - and yes. the press itself is not an evil device - in fact it's invention was derived from and led to the mass distribution of the Word on a level that confounded the 'powers that be' (were?) - of that time. one the other hand (and gosh i'm happy to have two hands to do this, eh?) the press has also allowed the printing of scandal, pornography, lies, slander and all manner of filth.

much like it's predecessor the printing press, the web - and now the web-log (blog) - are rife with all sorts of nastiness in addition to the abundant good.
i, for one, choose to post anonymously (i know, wade, your "blog does not allow anonymous comments") but i must do this if i am to comment freely. trust me, it is more of a "silence dogood" kind of anonymity than a malicious sort.
that being stated, i personally think it is quite sad that one person can hold up a moral viewpoint, diametrically opposed to another person also holding to a moral view - the two can not reconcile their views as a body, nor can they agree on major points as they are so apposed on the minor points.

comedian emo phillips had a wonderful bit he did on baptists, and it seems to be apropos, so indulge me ...

"I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said "Stop! don't do it!" "Why shouldn't I?" he said. I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!" He said, "Like what?" I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?" He said, "Religious." I said, "Me too! Are you christian or buddhist?" He said, "Christian." I said, "Me too! Are you catholic or protestant?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me too! Are you episcopalian or baptist?" He said, "Baptist!" I said,"Wow! Me too! Are you baptist church of god or baptist church of the lord?" He said, "Baptist church of god!" I said, "Me too! Are you original baptist church of god, or are you reformed baptist church of god?" He said,"Reformed Baptist church of god!" I said, "Me too! Are you reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1879, or reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1915?" He said, "Reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1915!" I said, "Die, heretic scum", and I pushed him off. -- Emo Phillips"

Roger Ferrell said...

Wade,
I agree with you. I think one of the wonderful things about blogging is that we (who really do not know each other) can hold one another accountable when we do get off track. We do not have this level of accountability in many other communication tools: books, conferences, even preaching. So this medium is somewhat unique in that way. And because we rely only on words, I have a feeling that this medium forces us to learn to use them better and more wisely, for as we all know, they come back to haunt us if we don't. (I'm sure I am not the only one who has been blog-searched by prospective employers.) We have to stand behind what we write because we cannot hide in obscurity any more.

Also of benefit is that bloggers are never a captive audience. We blog and read blogs because we want to. No one makes us. So we can walk away from the conversation or join another one at any time. So the "success" of a blog is related to it's relevance to a large number of people. In other words, we can determine the pulse of the blogging church by what they read and comment on. We can find out what they are interested in and keep a record of thoughts and ideas and criticism. And if we are all shallow or hyper-critical, we find that out quickly, too. And usually someone calls us on it. This is valuable in any organization.

And of course blogging does not cost anything. So unlike books that are $19.95 each or conferences that are $199 and up, blogging is a free education and free dialogue with people that might otherwise be hard to get to. It is media for the masses and will either make us collectively dumber or collectively smarter depending on the subject matter and level of commentary. In any case, we go there together in much larger numbers and with a more diverse slice of the body of Christ than would normally enter this conversation together through any other medium.

So blog on! Blog kind, blog gentle, blog loving. But let us continue to challenge, educate, inform and inspire one another, until a better tool comes along (video blogging?) or until we see Jesus face to face.

John Fariss said...

Amen, Wade. Most mere things are amoral, and can be used for good or bad, depending who the person using them. Blogs, printing presses, beverage alcohol, etc. Preach on, brother!

Alycelee said...

I've often wondered if the spirit of what I'm attempting to say here has come across in my attempts at this keyboard.
In saying that, I've read regular posters here and believe I have a sense of who they are in Christ and have noted a kindred spirit in many.
In these, I can be assured I will almost always agree, not because we agree about doctrinal things, but because they seldom talk about such, but keep calling me to higher things, spirtual things where the air is thin and doctrinal differences don't survive.
Thank you for reminding me about a higher calling.
Blog on!

Ellis said...

Wade:

Thanks for this post. It is an extremely important issue. I read Donnie's blog before you posted it and i agree with the portion you quoted. A blog as a tool is amoral. But like many new inventions, methods, and tools (i.e. stem cell research, cloning, etc.) a code of ethics is slower to develop. Medical ethics, for intstance, is lagging way behind. Those who speak prophetically (Christian Ethicists) to the medical community or journalistic community are often behind the curve. This is not to slight any of those who work in the field of ethics (the problem is that there are far too few, so they are overworked and underpaid ... sound familiar?). And now, many seminaries are dismanteling their ethics departments (but that's for another blog).

As a result, blogging and bloggers (without any general code of ethic that is being taught) run rampant.
There are those, for instance, who truly believe that the blog is "theirs," like a private journal and that they can, therefore, write whatever they want. "If you don't like it, don't read my blog."

I strongly disagree with that. They are producing a public piece of information (sometimes opinion, sometimes facts, sometimes gossip, sometimes inuendo),that could be read by anyone in the world. Some of these blogs get 1000 hits a day. That's a larger circulation than many small town newspapers. Yet, those small town newspapers have a code of journalistic ethics that they try to abide by. Bloggers should have the same.

Whether you like it or not, as a blogger, you are a journalist. You are keeping a public journal. It's NOT the same thing as keeping a private journal. You have are responsible for the truthfulness and accuracy of what you write.

I have read some bloggers who have said things that, if they had been written in a newspaper or a magazine, there would have been a lawsuit. Because the information was inflammatory, slanderous, undocumented, and untrue. This is a problem that needs to be addressed.

I think blogging is awesome. I love it. I think it can be used as a tremendous tool for communication. I also think that the ethicists need to start speaking prophetically to the blogging community in the hopes that we can keep it clean ... and more importantly, Christ-like.

I do want to say that I appreciate your blog because you, in my opinion, have always had a sense of the weight of that responsibility. You have been fair, balanced, and careful in your blogging, and I appreciate it.

ellis

irreverend fox said...

doing a good job? what? after all your personal and vile attacks against men like Dr. Patterson that I heard about. I heard you've even called the mans salvation into question! is that moral Wade?

lol

Wade Burleson said...

Fox,

It will take you some time, but I'm sure if you read every single word I have written you will only find discussion of the issues, not personalities.

Bob Cleveland said...

Wade:

One of the side effects of the blogs is that they give the "high-office" folks something they can disagree with. They already have plenty of voice, and now ordinary folks do, too. Sooooo.... net result, the leaders of the SBC get to say things that ordinary folks can recognize for what they are. Including comments about blogs and bloggers.

Bottom line: whereas we formerly speculated about what might be happening with leadership, we now have objective evidence. From them own selves, at times.

I think it would be good if they saw that.

Reminds me of an old saying of my dad's: "Sometimes it is better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you're stupid, than to open it up and prove it."

If SBC leadership isn't going to use the Wonderful World of Blogs to put out information and get feedback, then they'd best not be talking about it.

Greg Cloud said...

Wade,

I got into blogging to follow the IMB policy controversy. I must admit, I do more lurking than anything, just seeing what folks think and what they write. This is a great forum for that...I would never have first person contact with most of the players in the SBC otherwise.

You've done alright in this. Don't let folks rattle you. (You usually don't, but I put my 2 cents worth in anyway.) I may not agree with you in everything, but I like how you've handled yourself in the face of comments designed to be..well...unsettling.

All of us need to remember what the fruit of the Spirit is before we post. (Anyone read Galatians lately?) After all, we are known by our fruits...good or bad. Is the fruit of our words of the Spirit, or are our words designed to cause harm? Who are we being led by to publish such words?

Thanks, Wade. God bless.

Greg

irreverend fox said...

Wade,

if you took some time and read through most of my comments...you'd know how dead serious I'm being.

Ok, I'm sarcastic...I hope the trillions of people who read this blog can pick up on when I'm being serious and when I'm demonstrating absurdity by being absurd.

I'm only 28 Wade, I can get away with this cause people can just say, "well, he's young..." I admire you and your ethic with this blog. I think you go overboard trying to stay on the up and up (like your response here) which just further BLOWS my mind the way YOU are attacked, directly and by implication, with such stupid blanket statements. You, like, "overkill" on keeping this blog diplomatic. You're a great guy. I get very frustrated with the way some talk about you.

All anybody has to do is read your blog to know. It's all here for the record with trillions of people who can testify in your defense as well.

Wade Burleson said...

Thanks Fox,

I appreciate the kind words.

:)

Wade

TruthOfActs said...

Wade,
Comments have brought out the ‘limitations’ of words on paper.
“Come here!” I sharply said,
and the baby cried and wept.
“Come here”, I softly cooed,
and straight to my lap she crept.

The Bible only has words on paper, but they speak to our soul when viewed through the eyes of Jesus.
Rex Ray