A few months ago, a para church organization called a few critics "internet assassins" and threw around all sorts of other connotative terms. (I'm assuming that the term "internet assassin" refers to one who makes unfavorable comments about another on the internet.)
Perhaps I'm naive, or getting old, but I remember a day when you could passionately debate with someone without the debate becoming personal in nature. I suppose this is more of the way Modernists confronted controversy, and now those rules don't work in our postmodern world.
James Sire in "The Universe Next Door" states that for the existentialist, because truth is grounded in one's experience, "knowledge becomes inextricably bound to the knower." Criticize my knowledge and you've criticized me. Push me towards the logical conclusion of my argument, and if I lose the argument, I've been mortally wounded somehow - literally. Because knowledge is based in my experience, then truth is based in my experience. If my experience is insufficient, then I lose worth and value on a very personal level. The inexperience of a novice becomes a personal flaw and a shameful thing rather than an opportunity to come into greater understanding of truth and maturity. Nihilism is the only logical and ultimate end.
It's a subtle but powerful distinction.... Put God and the Word in the center as the fulcrum of all experience and truth, and it is quite easy to contend for the faith, criticism poses little threat or pain. Sire describes this as true Biblical Theism. The Christian Existentialist still believes in the same doctrines but with a subtle difference: truth is based within the Christian's experience of it. God is something or someone to be experienced rather than God being the starting point. The Christian doctrines do not shield the Christian Existentialist from the trap of the personal nature of criticism however. Knowledge is still bound to the knower since man and his experience are central.
In today's multicultural, media driven world, the media is the message and the message is sometimes more substantial than the thing that it represents. Criticize an errant teaching, and you're taking away a ministry's substance somehow. People are personally invested in their image, especially in some of these Bible-based groups. Throw a little idolatry, fear of man and unbelief in the mix.... and a few criticisms can go a long way.
I wonder however, even if some Christians do consider what I call critical thought and examination of teachings and praxis online to be murderous gossip, why are their criticisms are not considered equally as devastating to me? On Amazon, a recent unfavorable book review just disappeared, and another unfavorable review has in excess of thirty comments following it. (The review of the book review has over thirty comments...) Many of the reviews of the review accuse the reviewer of gossip and the like. In response, the reviewer wrote this, then followed up with an equally visited and excellent item on her blog.
The following is a statement from well-respected Biblical counselor and pastor Jay Adams from his book Grist from Adams's Mill, where he addresses the illegitimate use of Matthew 18 in an attempt to censure public criticism:
Any Christian who sets himself up as a teacher in the church of Christ and publicly teaches anything thereby opens himself up for criticism by others (cf. James 3:1).
If they think what he is teaching is harmful to the church, they have an obligation to point it out just as widely as it was taught. Such public warning or debate on the topic should not be considered a personal attack at all.
The teacher's plea that a critic should first have come to him about his disagreement on the basis of Matthew 18:15 does not hold. This passage has to do with personal wrongs known only between the two, who should privately discuss the matter that separates them.
What a critic of a public teaching does in pointing out his disagreement with that teaching has nothing to do with personal affronts or lack of reconciliation; he is simply disagreeing at the same public level as that on which the teaching was given in the first place" (pg. 69).
Appears on an Amazon.com book review comment.
What's that old saying?
"One man's villain is another's hero."
Thank you for your blog. I appreciate the fact that you have questioned people who have set themselves up to be authorities on certain matters. Until recently, I was unaware of the fact that a certain author was in a second marriage. Frankly, I am not interested in the particulars of her situation, but honesty is the best policy. I am in the same situation and am honest about it. If someone does not want to associate with me because of it, so be it. Perhaps in her case, image is paramount and revealing that fact ( which I am sure could be found in public records) might make her less credible amongst the conservative crowd that is her target audience. Is questioning someone's background or beliefs before choosing to buy their product "murderous gossip?" No, I think not. I liken it to investigating a charity before I choose to contribute.November 29, 2007 5:52 AM
Wow, Cindy, this is EXCELLENT!I'd never connected the post-modern definition of "truth" ("truth is rooted in my own experience") with the instant charges of gossip. You're so right, though! So many people these days believe that if you criticize their IDEAS, you are criticizing THEM personally.The ironic thing is, many of these people would be the first to think that their ideas ARE centered in the Word...like the "Patrio-centrists," who seem to use the term "Biblical" as a prefix for almost every one of their teachings. ("Biblical Womanhood," "Biblical Families," "Biblical Daughters") Perhaps you've inadvertently come up with a litmus test for whether or not a teaching is truly biblical: if those putting forth a teaching take criticism personally, then it's highly likely that their teaching is NOT centered on the Bible.Fascinating.November 29, 2007 7:12 AM
Anonymous wrote: Until recently, I was unaware of the fact that a certain author was in a second marriage. Frankly, I am not interested in the particulars of her situation, but honesty is the best policy. I also don't care whether people are divorced and remarried, and I'm more concerned about the "he" in the marriage you bring up rather than the "she" counterpart in the marriage. My point about all that was that the "he" was not consistent in his own statement about women who honored by God through their brief inclusions in the canon. The other inconsistency relates back to the list of requirements for elders. In the Assemblies of God, a group that many of the Reformed deem as liberal, they defrocked their ordained for remarriage after divorce. I'm quite glad that "she" found a provider and a father for her children from her marriage and "he" a mother for the children that he brought into the marraige. But the fact that they can strictly interpret one section of an epistle and not the other makes a significant difference.You also write: ... image is paramount and revealing that fact ( which I am sure could be found in public records) might make her less credible amongst the conservative crowd that is her target audience. That is the point that has not been acknowledged. In private communication, all emphasis was placed on disclaimers regarding "she's" first marriage. That was never of any interest to me, only their current activities in light of their own doctrine.As you note, they are selling more image that they are books. As consistent with the list of characteristics of spiritually abusive groups (in the right hand column of this blog), image-consciousness is a major feature.November 29, 2007 9:27 AM
Charismania,Well, let the praise of excellence go to James Sire. Tim Lahaye's "Battle for the Mind" (back when I was 13 yrs old) helped me understand the basics of worldview in general. Sire's book a few years later really added a great deal more insight to a very large topic, bringing in the details of ideas and their history. It's really a must-read book on worldview and an excellent place to start.After twenty years or more of "politically correct thought," I believe that those Christians involved in this particular debate have capitualted to the patterns of postmodernism concerning truth. It's like a uniquely Christian version of multi-culturalism. Rather than the golden rule, I have to nearly be psychic so as to treat you like I demand that you treat you. Failing to meet that requirement, the cries of all manner of pejorative are offered instead of debating the main issue -- the adult equivalent of saying "Na,na,na,na,na,na." (In Maryland they say "Nanny, nanny, boo, boo!)Keep in mind, too, that the use of "Biblical" as a modifier on so, so many of their concepts is actually a cultic technique. See the Loading the Language post listed under the "Lifton" tag.And I have come up with nothing. I remember and my mother frequently recalls my grandmother's wise advice: "Consider the source." It's a wise and valuable consideration in any phase of a conflict. People's reactions are quite informative, in and of themselves. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.November 29, 2007 9:48 AM
I am wondering how negative book reviews just "disappear" from amazon? I noticed the same phenomenon for another patriocentric book about a year ago. Do the authors have control over which reviews remain posted?November 30, 2007 5:49 PM
I talked with Amazon about their policy. If you look on their site, anything that is deemed as spiteful or highly inflammatory may be removed at Amazon's discretion without notice to the reviewer. I was told that it is usually their policy that if they receive a complaint, they usually just take the review offline.Connect the dots if you would like.November 30, 2007 5:56 PM