18 October 2010

1 Timothy 6:4 and Blogging

. . . an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people . . . --1 Timothy 6:4b

Hard to imagine a text more relevant to the blogosphere.

In context, Paul is describing someone 'puffed up with conceit' who doesn’t promote 'the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness' (6:3-4a). And he says that this kind of person has a 'craving for controversy.' Interesting phrase. This person has a weird impulse within him that enjoys 'quarrels about words' (lit. ‘word-wars’). The result--'envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction.'

How well we know this in blogdom! Of course the internet and blogs did not create the problem. But they do exacerbate the problem, giving a disturbingly natural platform to act out what 1 Timothy 6 warns against.

A few thoughts.

1. I see it in me. The first thing this text confronts me with is not what I find in others but what I find in me. When I come across something I disagree with online, or when someone disagrees with me, there is a dark, perverted impulse deep within that boils up and actually enjoys locking horns with another brother. I'm not talking about an honest love for truth, though that is sometimes there. I'm talking about simply wanting to win. It's the online equivalent of Mutombo's obnoxious finger-wag after swatting some guard's lay-up.

2. There is a difference between reluctantly engaging in controversy and eagerly engaging in controversy. 'Craving' it, as Paul says. Are you distressed, even a little bit, when you have to cross another brother? Or is it emotionally intoxicating? Do you salivate over an imminent argument?

3. The man writing 1 Timothy 6 publicly rebuked the rock of the church over a point of doctrine (Galatians 2). Conclusion: 1 Timothy 6 is not advocating the end of all 'quarrels about words.' It is advocating the end of all sick enjoyment of quarrels about words.

4. Some bloggers, of various theological persuasion, are acting out the tragedy of 1 Timothy 6 while thinking they're acting out the triumph of Galatians 2. How easily craving for controversy is mistaken for love for truth. There is a place for honest self-examination here, friends--not morbid introspection, but honest self-examination. A good diagnostic is: If I realized I was wrong in some matter after a series of back-and-forths in a comment thread, which would be greater, my disappointment at having 'lost' or my gratitude at having learned something?

5. To the degree that this post irks you, to that degree you need to hear it.

6. There's a connection between one's felt sense of full and free justification by faith and one's impulse to have the last jab in a comment thread. The reason we must have the last word, must defend ourselves and our name, must win, is that we don't really believe the gospel. We say we do; we even think we do. But we aren’t viscerally convinced that our personal worth is already fully secured without any contribution from us. It is functional semi-Pelagianism that makes us obnoxious online. We feel more approved before the mirror and before the world if we can inject a dose of self-generated vindication into our sense of worth. How deeply ironic, then, that it is often those most zealous for reformed doctrine who most need to hear 1 Timothy 6. We receive the gospel of grace with one arm (our doctrine) while stiff-arming the gospel with the other arm (our hearts).

7. The results of controversy-craving that Paul lists are so true to life, especially online life, aren't they? Take 'slander.' The internet is the most merciless machine for promoting slander in the history of the world. When else could someone (anyone) write whatever he wanted about whomever he wanted, press a button, and have it instantly and universally available without any filtering or time lapse or peer review necessary whatsoever?

Or 'evil suspicions.' Blogs and blog commenting breed suspicion. Peering through (not at) others' words, trying to discern what they really meant. We do it all the time.

8. I believe there is a common root heart issue from which both pornography viewing and online obnoxiousness emerge. In both cases 1) it is usually a man 2) who logs on to his computer, 3) is most prone to fall into this sin when tired or depressed, 4) feels personally inadequate, 5) is spurred on in this online activity by not having to truly engage another human being but instead has no relational demand placed upon him, 6) generates self-identity and bolsters his own sense of vaunted masculinity through his time online, 7) finds the activity addictive, immediately satisfying yet only leaving him hungry for more, 8) underestimates how much damage he is doing to himself and to others, and 9) logs off feeling a little more dirty.

At the end of a long day one guy looks at porn, another blasts away at the emergents or traditionalists or Arminians or Calvinists or cultural transformationists or two-kingdom people or multi-site advocates or single-service advocates or gospel tweeters or gospel tweet avoiders or presuppositionalists or evidentialists or charismatics or cessationists or 24-hour day creationists or framework folks or ESV-ers or NIV-ers. . . . Is not the dynamic of the heart, at root, the same? Could it be that porn-viewing and blog sniping, despite one feeling unrighteous and the other righteous, is the exact same immaturity channeled in a different direction?

Oh, one final similarity: both porn-viewing and blog sniping can be utterly redeemed--utterly redeemed--through penitent, grace-bathed, fault-confessing, pride-admitting, excuse-refusing contrition before Christ.

Hope for me.

18 comments:

Daniel said...

Excellent post. Thanks for blog writers and blog readers alike.

JoeyTrip said...

Good analogy there at the end. Sin is sin, and this is one that too many of us excuse. Churches all over America have been plagued by online controversies among members. This would have never happened ten years ago, but thanks to technology, the Enemy now has another means to cause division and distract believers from the real mission. Your post was well written and very timely for your modern audience. Thanks!

Boaly said...

Great post!
Thanks for this analogy.

Andy said...

A very timely and insightful post. You understand the Scriptures and the human heart - a powerful combination. The comparison between blog-controversy-craving and porn-craving is astute. Well done and thanks!

Rick Clinard said...

Thanks for the post.

Todd said...

I love this post. found it through JT's Blog. I was inspired to share some of my thoughts on it on my blog which canbe found here: http://sjchurch.org/blog/details/blog-sniping...-like-an-internet-porn-addiciton/

Thanks

John Starke said...

Thanks, Dane. Really good post.

Anonymous said...

Another similarity is the compulsive nature of it. There are things to be done, yet here the blogger sits, glued to the circuit of blogs, seemingly unable to break away and do what should be done in the real world.

Jason B. Hood said...

Good stuff Dane. I like the analogy with porn. Very instructive and insightful.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Wonderful post.

I benefit from watching or participating in a good back-and-forth on doctrinal convictions. It's like iron sharpening iron.

But too much iron sharpening is not good.

Joshua Rogers said...

Beautifully done, brother. I know this took a lot of time, thought, and humility to put this together. But it was worth it - for the sake of Christ's body. I will be thinking of this long after today. Seriously - good job, brother.

Steve Cornell said...

The same principle could be applied to political engagement. On the one side, we have right-wing extremists; on the left, the so-called "loonies from the left." Each side is in overdrive to demonize the other and there’s no shortage of derogatory labels. Christians can easily be drawn in.

Watching the tone of our debates
http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2009/05/10/watching-the-tone-of-our-debates/

Anonymous said...

Blogs, Twitter, FB status updates, etc are a perfect example of just how self-centered our culture has become. Somewhere in the technology revolution everyone has decided the world deserves to hear their thoughts, know their locations, and see their to-do lists. They sacrifice true relationship for online identities which make no relational demands. They get some form of glee when someone posts a comment or 'likes' their status. These things generate self-identity and worth, and therefore must necessarily draw one away from justification by faith alone.

To the degree that this comment irks you, to that degree you need to hear it.

Mark said...

Great post! Number 8 was like a sledge hammer of truth.

Mike Jeshurun said...

A wonderful and much needed post indeed. Thanks to Brother Russ of ‘Humanitas Remedium’ for sending me the link. To convince myself that I have never been guilty of this ‘Blog-sniping’ is to deceive myself. Most of us have been guilty of it.

I especially like the point where you said , “How deeply ironic, then, that it is often those most zealous for reformed doctrine who most need to hear 1 Timothy 6. We receive the gospel of grace with one arm (our doctrine) while stiff-arming the gospel with the other arm (our hearts)”.
Here is an example –

I join a Calvinist forum and share my testimony as to how God saved me from Satanism, Drugs and Heavy Metal Music and by and by opened my eyes to the truths of Sovereign Grace. Immediately I get bombarded by some Calvinist zealots who insist that I could have NEVER BEEN SAVED while I was an Arminian!

Try telling them that the ‘Gospel’ that saves is neither the 5 Points of Calvinism or Arminianism but the SIMPLE TRUTH which the Apostle believed and preached to be the Gospel [1 Cor 15:1-4] and you are wasting your breath!

Try telling them that there is a DIFFERENCE between Regeneration and Conversion and that some of the mighty defenders of Calvinism started out as Arminians. Augustus Toplady author of the immortal Hymn ‘Rock of Ages’ was saved in 1755. But it was not until 1758 he became a convinced Calvinist. Abraham Booth author of ‘The Reign of Grace’ was saved in 1755, but it wasn’t until 1768 that God opened his eyes to the truths of Sovereign Grace. Try telling them this and again you’re wasting your breath.

The attitude being, “My mind is made up! Don’t confuse me with the facts”!

And incidentally if you are a member of one of these forums managed by these Calvinist zealots, beware whom you quote from. It matters not if the quote is 100% Scriptural and according to the truth. If it is from one of those dreaded Arminians like J.C. Ryle or A.W. Tozer you are inviting trouble.

There is almost a ‘spirit of fear’ while posting something on some of these Forums I am speaking of, for there are those who are eagerly waiting to pounce on you and chew your head off (if they could) by making you an ‘offender for a word’ [Isa 29:21].

Oh may God help us to take this post by Dane to heart and be delivered from the evil of ‘Blog-sniping’!

Mike said...

A wonderful and much needed post indeed. Thanks to Brother Russ of ‘Humanitas Remedium’ for sending me the link. To convince myself that I have never been guilty of this ‘Blog-sniping’ is to deceive myself. Most of us have been guilty of it.

I especially like the point where you said , “How deeply ironic, then, that it is often those most zealous for reformed doctrine who most need to hear 1 Timothy 6. We receive the gospel of grace with one arm (our doctrine) while stiff-arming the gospel with the other arm (our hearts)”.
Here is an example –

I join a Calvinist forum and share my testimony as to how God saved me from Satanism, Drugs and Heavy Metal Music and by and by opened my eyes to the truths of Sovereign Grace. Immediately I get bombarded by some Calvinist zealots who insist that I could have NEVER BEEN SAVED while I was an Arminian!

Try telling them that the ‘Gospel’ that saves is neither the 5 Points of Calvinism or Arminianism but the SIMPLE TRUTH which the Apostle believed and preached to be the Gospel [1 Cor 15:1-4] and you are wasting your breath!

Try telling them that there is a DIFFERENCE between Regeneration and Conversion and that some of the mighty defenders of Calvinism started out as Arminians. Augustus Toplady author of the immortal Hymn ‘Rock of Ages’ was saved in 1755. But it was not until 1758 he became a convinced Calvinist. Abraham Booth author of ‘The Reign of Grace’ was saved in 1755, but it wasn’t until 1768 that God opened his eyes to the truths of Sovereign Grace. Try telling them this and again you’re wasting your breath.

The attitude being, “My mind is made up! Don’t confuse me with the facts”!

And incidentally if you are a member of one of these forums managed by these Calvinist zealots, beware whom you quote from. It matters not if the quote is 100% Scriptural and according to the truth. If it is from one of those dreaded Arminians like J.C. Ryle or A.W. Tozer you are inviting trouble.

There is almost a ‘spirit of fear’ while posting something on some of these Forums I am speaking of, for there are those who are eagerly waiting to pounce on you and chew your head off (if they could) by making you an ‘offender for a word’ [Isa 29:21].

Oh may God help us to take this post by Dane to heart and be delivered from the evil of ‘Blog-sniping’!

Anonymous said...

If people will "read and heed," we would have a kinder and gentler group of bloggers.

Lou Martuneac said...

Dane:

A pastor I’ve know for many years sent me (and others) the link to your article. He said it is, “helpful for those seeking to maintain balance.” After reading it myself I agree whole-heartedly. I recognize my own shortcomings, that I can fail my family and the Lord just as easily as the next man. I guard myself from it; confess and repent when I’ve failed.

Thanks again,


LM