'nuff said

Over at the vacationing Justin Taylor's blog, an essay by Tim Keller and David Powlison has been posted, and in the meta over there I posted this response:
So is this a bad report on the bringers of a bad report?

I respect the vision here -- a Biblical vision of turning a brother away from his sin. I reject the idea that every "bad report" is inherently sinful. The book of Galatians is, itself, a public "bad report" from Paul against those in Galatia who were defacing the Gospel -- and Paul didn't go to these guys first and say, "listen, I didn't want to say anything in front of the whole church, and I certainly am not suggesting that you are bad guys, but is your paradigm for the inclusivity of Christ's work excessively biased to Old-Covenant mores and boundary markers?" I think Paul's language is markedly more aggressive and pointed than that.

I'm fairly on-record against the excesses of watch-blogging, and if that's what this brief essay is trying to get at, so be it. But it is one thing to repudiate hyperbolic accusations for matters of secondary (or tertiary) importance, and another entirely to say that all disagreements are inherently private disagreements which need to be settled over a cup of coffee, face to face, without any regard to the public scope of the point in contention.

The proof of this lies simply in answering the question, "How does one refute or repudiate the excesses of watch-bloggers?" The way that engagement would have to unfold -- as a mixture of public exposition and private mediation -- seems to me to look a lot more like the multiform method of engaging error in the NT than the (if I can be forgiven for saying so) simplistic view being advanced here.
Coupla other things occured to me after I posted that, so let me spill those out for you and then dac or anyone else who thinks that this is just a matter of being nicer people can say their peace.

First off, I prefer open and honest discourse. Really. I'd much rather put all the cards on the table -- especially when something has been said or done in public -- than clam up and hope that later someone will, because they are so very concerned and grieved and troubled, ask me what I think. And I think most often, the dialog itself is instructive and therefore useful to other people -- when it is a dialog.

You know: when it's not actually a give-and-take, it's not even worth engaging at all.

But that said, there are also some things you have to do someplace other than the center ring of the 3-ring circus or the main podium at the U.N. And church discipline is one of those things.

So someplace between the right-mind application of church discipline and the rght-minded application of public dispute lies the answer to the question Dr. Keller and Dr. Powlison have asked. And the test case for whatever solution you think you have for this question is, in fact, dealing with watch-bloggers.

On the one hand, we have events like the ones I accidentally found out about yesterday in which Ken Sliva got shut down by his ISP because Richard Abanes was going to "contact his lawyers" over a somewhat-older post Ken had made about Abanes -- and it seems to me that this particular situation demonstrates everything that is wrong with watchblogging. Could Ken have been a little more charitable? I think yes. Could Abanes have been -- and still be -- a little more transparent about what his intention were/are? Yes, I think so. His explanation that the phrase "contact my attorney" (or words to that effect) could mean anything in the context he provided is a little coy. So rather than have an open and public discussion -- even across blogs -- about the matter at hand, what we have instead winds up looking more like the problem in 1 Cor 6 where we let non-believers judge our disputes than like James 5.

The truth is that watchblogging tends to be a mixed bag -- because it is generally a very serious hobby in which very serious people are very concerned about things with eternal value. And to that end, Amen. We should be serious about the eternal question and value of the Gospel. But it is not just seriousness we need to have in this matter: we need to have a little bit of joy and a little bit of humility towards truth, too.

Of course, I am the perfect example of what I'm talking about, and if everyone was just like me the blogosphere would be a lot more informative and funny and edifying. So go back and read my whole blog from the beginning, including the Santa debacle, and learn from my mistakes God-inspired wisdom so that you can engage people without having to beat them to a bloody pulp.



What are you laughing at?