Thursday, September 25, 2014

Avoiding the Herostratic Temptation of Christian Blogging

The Gerasa Temple of Artemis
In early 1863 John Wilkes Booth told James H. McVicker, a fellow actor and manager of McVicker's Theater in Chicago, that there would be a "glorious opportunity for a man to immortalize himself by killing Lincoln." The statement, made a full year before Booth actually assassinated the nation's 16th President, included a historical reference which seems to justify Booth's intentions. He told McVickers:
"The ambitious youth who fired the Ephesian dome outlives in fame the pious fool who reared it." (Source: The Detroit Free Press, April 18, 1865)
Booth never attended college, but his understanding of ancient history would surpass most college graduates today. The 'dome' to which Booth refers was the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Nobody knows the name of the one who built it, but the name of the one who destroyed it by fire is infamous.

Herostratus (pronounced 'hero-stra'- tus) torched the Temple of Artemis on July 21, 356 BC, the very night Alexander the Great was born, prompting Plutarch to speculate that Artemis was too preoccupied with Alexander's delivery to save her burning temple. The Ephesians sentenced Herostratus to death and forbade anyone from mentioning his name; but the world, just as Booth suggested to his friend, seems to exalt the names of those who destroy rather than those who build.

The name Herostratus is now used in languages around the world for those who are seeking fame at any cost, something called herostratic fame.

There is the temptation in all of us to gravitate toward the fame associated with destroying what others built. The kingdom is being built by God's people. Sometimes the craftsmanship of what is being built is shoddy. Other times the builders themselves are flawed. Blogging has done Christians a great service in helping us understand the issues and problems within the Kingdom.

However, I don't wish to be a Booth. It's never my desire to be known for tearing down what others have built, regardless of how dysfunctional it may be. I'd rather be known for what I'm for rather than for what I'm against. I'd rather people understand what to build and how to build, rather than what needs burned and how to burn it.

I'm not sure, however, that most people enjoy reading how something's built. For example, in my last article on James McDonald and how he wrongly (in my view) invests spiritual authority in elders, there were 'thousands' of hits from all over the world. However, toward the end of the article I offered a solution to the problem by posting a PDF that explains how to have a church where Christ alone is understand to have all spiritual authority. There were only a few hundred downloads of the object which would help build something good.

Regardless, it's my desire to never expose a problem (as I see it) without offering a solution. I'd rather be unknown and try to build something good for the Kingdom than be the famous guy who is well-known for destroying what someone else has built, regardless of how dysfunctional the building is.


Anonymous said...

"I'd rather people understand what to build and how to build, rather than what needs burned and how to burn it. I'm not sure, however, that most people enjoy reading how something's built."

Appreciate the thoughts, Wade. Maybe you and the Mrs. need to do some traveling in order to show us how - even though we all aren't from Missouri. :) It's not all that easy finding like-minded people in our area. Ken

Wade Burleson said...

Thanks, Ken.

Tom said...


Many people build structures that can be put together rapidly, like a revival, but sadly few know how to build the revival so that it lasts and is ongoing when the excitement wanes.

I would rather have a preacher who understands what is needed to make a long time relationship with Christ last into eternity than a person who knows how to get people in the front door of a "church" but lets them exit a short time later out of the side doors disillusioned while others are still pouring in the front door.

Sadly once the gloss of the paint on the facade begins to fade, the structure will start to crumble and tumble down because of the shoddy workmanship of the builder not centred on the things that matter the most.

An honest relationship up wards firstly and then sideway with those who are also on the same journey of discovery of what it means to have a heart after God's own heart.



Anonymous said...

I am not sure that we are building the Kingdom of Heaven. I think Christ is the builder. Perhaps this is the root of the authority problem.

George Luter said...

I downloaded your paper when you published it before, but I don't know if today's "Leadership Teams" fit in there anywhere. I remember the day when SBC leaders were just named "executive secretary" now they like to be "CEO"---just like in the business world.

Wade Burleson said...


The issue for me is the false notion of 'spiritual' authority.

Titles and positions have to have some legal and corporate 'authority,' but the notion that a 'pastor,' 'elder,' or other church leader - no matter what its called - has 'spiritual' authority is what the paper seeks to correct.