10 Rules of Etiquette for Blog Debates
Those who are familiar with public speaking find that this kind of apprehension is normal --- at first. Though it never fully goes away, as the speaker becomes more comfortable in the setting, the emotion of nervousness will abate.
I think that is probably also the case with some of the emotion in the dialogue and debate on blogs. I realize that there have been some very angry and harsh responses to posts and comments among some Southern Baptists, but I believe that over time, as everyone gets comfortable with the idea of debate and dialogue via the internet, the emotional level will lower to a more typical and normal range.
In fact, I think that is already taking place. Those who have been involved in the debate for several weeks or months are finding their emotions moderating as they respond. Disagreement will never disappear, but when our convention gets used to free and open debate on issues we will find the discussion to be more courteous and respectful with far less acrimony and hostility.
A Lesson from History
Throughout Baptist history the practice of open debate to address and resolve complex issues, including false accusations of heresy, has been part of the fabric of our existence. In fact, the Baptists in 17th Century England called for open debate, which they called "Public Disputations," in order to address the accusations made by other evangelicals that Baptists were heretics. Dr. McBeth writes:
"Perhaps no group in England made more use of public disputations than did Baptists. Between 1641 and 1700 at least 109 such public debates involving Baptists were held in England, with 79 of these between 1641 and 1660. These debates pitted one or more Baptist champions against opponents from Anglican, Quaker, Independent, or, sometimes, Roman Catholic groups. Baptists welcomed these occasions, for they gave opportunity for declaring the gospel to large crowds, helped defend Baptists against unjust slanders, and often led to numerous conversions and the planting of new churches. Many leading Baptists of that time were converted at public disputations, such as John Tombes, Henry Jessey, and Christopher Blackwood. All of these became popular disputation leaders themselves, along with other Baptists such as William Kiffin, Jeremiah Ives, and John Bunyan"
H Leon Mcbeth. The Baptist Heritage -- Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Broadman Press 1987), 64-65.
Rules of Etiquette for Blog Debates
Someone should probably come up with 10 Rules of Etiquette for Blog Debates. All of us can be sharpened by the comments of others as iron sharpens iron, and even more exciting, people may truly be transformed by the power of the gospel as we discuss the beauty and nuances of the good news in a public setting.
I'm wondering if Southern Baptists might actually make a contribution to blogging debates by coming up with a list of etiquette rules that the blogging community would willingly follow. The internet has a way of policing itself, and if a good set of rules could be generally agreed upon, and an individual violated them, then the blog community would ignore that person's posts or comments.
I would like to give it a try.
List Your Most Important Rules of Etiquette Here
I would like your suggestions regarding the most important rules of etiquette for debate on the blogs. Let's see if we can't come up with a Baptist community effort to establish some rules. I'll poll some people (and feel free to offer your comments about other people's rules as well) and we'll see if we can't come up with some good rules of etiquette for both posts and comments.
I look forward to your hearing your wisdom.
In His Grace,