Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thinking About Netiquette

From time to time I write a blog post on the blogosphere itself. Today, a few thoughts are running through my mind on netiquette for blogs and internet interaction. So I dump them here.

First, if you have a comment section, then interact on the comments, or allow others to interact. Some people have such a large readership, they intentionally don’t interact much on their own blog. That’s not a problem for most. But it’s certainly  fine. I would suggest that you perhaps just make it clear on the home page that your practice is not to interact on the comments.

Some people heavily moderate their blog comments. I don’t. I rarely remove a post. I am not a big fan of heavy moderation, aside from being off topic, or being obscene.  

There are some bloggers who allow almost always delete comments that question or take objection to the post, but they allow the comments which pat them on the back.

In my view, if you allow comments, then allow comments. If you don’t, then don’t. But don’t moderate the comment section to look like no one disagrees with you. And don’t refer to comments that don’t exist (as in, “Joe, I deleted your comment because it demonstrated that you were a hypocritical idiot and I can’t let that stand”). And if you moderate your comments, don’t complain that other sites moderate their comments.

There are several people who have no problem with strong disagreement and interaction on their blog. I like that. I don’t like people who make strong posts and then edit or moderate the comments to remove all disagreement.

Second, if someone asks you a question, try to answer it. It is a far too common tactic to say, “I was clear; it’s your problem you don’t understand.” That may be the case. It may not  be. But in my experience, most people are not nearly as clear in their writing as they think they are. Writing is a difficult medium. You cannot have instant interaction like you can in person.

And remember, you write from a head full of data and thoughts that your readers do not have. Therefore, things that may be perfectly clear to you (because of your thoughts) may not be clear to the readers because they do not know what your thoughts are.

There’s an old saying: If the student hasn’t learned, then the teacher hasn’t taught. While it’s not entirely true, I think it is actually a pretty good principle.

If someone asks “What do you mean?” it’s usually a good sign that you probably weren’t as clear as you thought you were, at least to them. And if your goal is communication, take another run at it. But when you do, actually try to answer the question.

Third, if you are going to post a comment on a blog, then post on the blog topic. Don’t use blog comments to post unrelated things, particularly when they are personal in nature. That is called “spamming” in the internet world. And don’t use someone else’s blog comments merely for free advertising for your own blog. Feel free to link to your blog in your name section of your comment, but don’t blast the comment section with links to your own blog.

Fourth, remember that the blogosphere lacks important communication data like body language, facial expression, and eye contact. A question may be nothing more than a question. Just because you are oversensitive and insecure doesn’t mean that everyone else is. So relax. Don’t take it personal, and don’t get personal.

Fifth, remember your own depravity. Suspect yourself first. You will usually find a large problem right there.

And then get over yourself. You’re not as important or intelligent as you think you are. And you’re a lot more sinful than you think you are. So deal with it, and move on.

As always, feel free to comment to help clarify, correct, or instruct. Just be on topic and post with grace.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Horton on Sola Scriptura

“In the experience of many evangelicals, sola scriptura has become transferred from its ecclesial habitat to the domain of private spirituality. Downplaying the sacramental Word, through which God works his own magic, the Bible becomes a resource for “personal growth.” In some cases, criticism of sola scriptura is fueled by yet one more attempt to escape the clutches (imaginary and real) of “fundamentalism” and “modernity,” particularly in what has come to be called the emergent movement

Michael S. Horton
People and Place: A Covenant Ecclesiology, p. 91.

An interesting perspective, and assuredly correct at least in part, that sola scriptura is often not so much a theological commitment as a personal one. It is doubtless sometimes born, not out of a desire to honor the life-giving and transformative Word of God, but out of a desire to honor selfish ambition of all types.

The way for some to escape the “oppressive nature of man-made religion” (by which they mean churches who believe that the gospel is more a transformative tool than a catchy slogan) is to claim sola scriptura—which being interpreted is, “You can’t tell me what to do. I can decide for myself.”

Whether we like conservatism or not, we must wrestle with the fact that things that we do now have been conserved for generations for a reason. Before we use sola scriptura to jettison them as being “oppressive legalism,” we should at least consider more seriously the fact that they may have been conserved for good reason that have nothing to do with power and control, and that our commitment to sola scriptura may be more personal than theological.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cessationism vs. Continuationism

There is a modern resurgence among evangelical, gospel-preaching, gospel-believing people about the gifts of the Spirit, particularly what have generally been called the “sign gifts” (for example, tongues, prophecy, knowledge, or healings).

There is a lot of misunderstanding and mischaracterization by both sides of the others. So I am going to take a few posts to outline some thoughts on this topic. As always, feel free to interact, correct, clarify, or question.

In this post, I will explain the key terms:

Spiritual Gifts – Spiritual gifts are talents or abilities, whether supernaturally or natural, that are used for the building of the body of Christ. There are four gift lists in the New Testament (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:28-30; Ephesians 4:11). They are sometimes divided into the categories of sign gifts and service gifts, or the categories of sign gifts, service gifts, and speaking gifts. The New Testament lists are almost certainly representative lists rather than comprehensive lists, since they differ from one another.

Cessationist – A cessationist is one believes that the sign gifts of the Spirit have ceased. These sign gifts served a unique role in the first century as a confirmation both of apostolic authority and of the apostolic message prior to the close of the canon. Since the Bible is complete, we no longer need a sign gift in order to know what the message of God is. We can simply read the Bible, which has God’s completed message. It is important to note that cessationists do not believe that spiritual gifts have ceased, as some have charged. Cessationism deals only with the sign gifts.

Continuationist – A continuationist is someone who believes that the sign gifts of the Spirit continue. The Spirit still works through gifts such as prophecy, knowledge, tongues, and healings in various ways. Bob Kauflin ,worship leader at Covenant Life Church and author of Worship Matters, defines his continuationism this way: “I believe that all the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament have continued to the present day and [I] don’t limit the Spirit’s work to specific gifts” (Worship Matters, p. 86).

Charismatic – From the Greek word for spiritual gifts, a “charismatic” is a continuationist. Some, such as Bob Kauflin, prefer the term “continuationist” because “the term charismatic has sometimes been associated with doctrinal error, unsubstantiated claims of healing, financial impropriety, outlandish and unfulfilled predictions, an overemphasis on the speech gifts, and some regrettable hairstyles” (Worship Matters, p. 86). This is probably the reason that Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, describes himself as a “charismatic with a seat belt.” He, Kauflin, and others like them desire to separate themselves from the likes of Benny Hinn, Paul and Jan Crouch, and the folks like them.

Open but Cautious – This is a growing group of people “who believe that sign gifts such as allows for the possibility of miraculous gifts continuing throughout the entire church age but remains skeptical of contemporary charismatic practice.”[1] They typically believe that the sign gifts no longer function as they did during the NT era, but God can, as he desires, perform similar miracles.

Continuationists and charismatics are most commonly associated with Pentecostal denominations (and televangelists, probably), but there are continuationists in virtually every denomination and group.

What should be noted up front is that there is a difference between someone like Bob Kauflin and Benny Hinn. They are both “charismatic” or “continuationist” but they believe very different things about the issue.

The idea that there is no difference between charismatics is simply incorrect, and should be abandoned. They are not equally wrong, and they are not equally dangerous to the church.

[1]Nathan Busenitz, “Now That’s the Spirit: Assessing and Addressing Evangelical Charismatics,” (unpublished paper from The Shepherds Conference, 2008), p. 3; see also accompanying audio presentation:

Mt. St. Helens – May 18, 1980

Thirty years ago today, on a Sunday morning, Mt. St. Helens unleashed the fury of nature in an incredible display of power.

One of my favorite websites has some great pictures of it. National Geographic has an interesting article about it here.

I was at Mt. St. Helens once, about twelve years ago. It was late in a summer’s day on a drive from Eugene to Seattle. It was well worth the stop, and I wish I had more time. Perhaps one day I will get back.

Volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, and other acts of nature remind us that for all of mankind’s great technological advances, we still can’t control the most ancient of things—nature herself.

Only her Creator can do that.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Facebook Fears - PSA

For all of you concerned about recent facebook changes concerning your privacy and your firstborn son, here’s a link that supposedly helps you know how exposed you are.

Try it out.

I came up all good.

Of course, there may be some hidden data miner that means I just funded someone’s shopping spree at

But at least I feel better about Facebook.

HT: Lifehacker

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The World We Are Trying to Reach

Ed Stetzer, from Lifeway Research, has some new research out about the priorities of the millennials (those born between 1980 and 1991). You can read Stetzer here, or the Christian Post article to which he refers here.

Here’s what’s interesting to me. Only 13% of millennials say that religion or spirituality is their top priority. My guess is that’s probably not actually different than past generations, though I have no numbers to demonstrate that.

My guess is tied to the fact that very few people, on any given week, practice any actual religion or follow any actual spiritual practices in any substantive way.

For decades, we have seen attendance and involvement in all kinds of churches decline. So this study simply puts a number on a fact that we all already know: the people we are trying to reach simply are not that interested in religion and spirituality as a top priority in their life.

Does that affect the way we do ministry? I think it does.

How? I will tell you later.

By the way, 61% say family is the top priority. Again, that is a number placed on a fact that we already know. How many people do we here claiming that their priorities place family over church, with the result that church worship and involvement takes a back seat to family issues.

I know that opens a huge can of worms from which, honestly, some very dumb arguments are made.

Does that affect the way we do ministry? I think it does.

How? I will tell you later, much later, when the danger of being killed for my beliefs is less.

But in a nutshell, let me put it this way: I think the idea that a father leads his family to miss church for a Sunday for a “family day” at the lake or beach or whatever, rather than missing work on a Friday for that family day so that they can be in church on Sunday speaks volumes to actual priorities. 

Or the idea that a family misses midweek Bible teaching because it’s the night of the week they have together after shopping, ball games, and homework, speaks equally loudly.

And we need to think very seriously about what it says.

Friday, May 07, 2010

I’ll Tell You What’s Funny

People who would have nothing to say if they did not constantly repeat the same thing over and over.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Growing Up Slowly

Here’s a Twilight Zone-type premise for you. What if surgeons never got to work on humans, they were instead just endlessly in training, cutting up cadavers? What if the same went for all adults – we only got to practice at simulated versions of our jobs? Lawyers only got to argue mock cases, for years and years. Plumbers only got to fix fake leaks in classrooms. Teachers only got to teach to videocameras, endlessly rehearsing for some far off future. Book writers like me never saw our work put out to the public – our novels sat in drawers. Scientists never got to do original experiments; they only got to recreate scientific experiments of yesteryear. And so on.

Rather quickly, all meaning would vanish from our work. Even if we enjoyed the activity of our job, intrinsically, it would rapidly lose depth and relevance. It’d lose purpose. We’d become bored, lethargic, and disengaged.

In other words, we’d turn into teenagers.

Newsweek writes about a new book on the topic of teenagers and maturity.

Without painful real-life experiences, modern teens’ brains never learn to tell the difference between what they should fear and what they shouldn’t. Without real consequences and real rewards, teens never learn to distinguish between good risks they should take and bad risks they shouldn’t.

I don’t know if the article and book are right, but it is an interesting thought.

We live in a world of almost perpetual adolescence. I cringe when I hear twenty- and thirty-somethings talk about playing video games. I roll my eyes when I hear of video game tournaments in bars, knowing that the people who may (I say may not as permission but as possibility) legitimately enjoy video games are not even able to go in bars.

If only video games were the worst. This immaturity shows up in every area of life. Men and women in the middle ages of life treat spouses like high school prom dates: have a good time, “get some,” and then move on to the next person. Share your children like it’s a $1 large drink at McDonald’s. Work out the custody arrangements in such a way that you get at least every other weekend free to go out and party like you’re a child.

One of the characteristics of childhood is that children think life is about them. Parents are supposed to take care of them, provide them with food and toys, keep them from getting bored. All the toys in the room are their prerogative, and if another child has it, just take it away. Nap when you feel like it, and stay up when you feel like it. No need to take responsibility because mom will cook the food and clean it up. If you stall long enough, you won’t even have to put your toys away before bed. Mom and Dad will just get tired of fighting with you. And when you don’t get your way, make a big scene with lots of noise and angry voice tones. Mom and Dad will be shamed into compliance … or make a big scene with lots of angry voice tones.

Some kids never grow out of it. We see it with spouses who say, “If I don’t get my way, you are on your own.” Angry voices, withdrawal, and abandonment result. We see it with employees who say, “If I don’t get my way, I am not working hard.” We see it with church members who say, “If I don’t get my way, I am going to another church.”

One of the challenges of parenthood is actually raising children to be adults. I have a four-year old and a one-year old. I used to be an expert on raising children. Then I had some. Now I don’t have a clue. But in between laughing a lot and crying a lot, between the temptation to yell at them and to shut up and do it myself, I am reminded that my job is not to have a peaceful evening, or a great day, but to raise disciples of Jesus who are prepared to live the gospel in a messed-up world.

And if you are going to live the gospel in a messed up world, we are going to have to deny ourselves and grow up in a hurry.

Because if the gospel teaches me anything, it teaches me that life is not about me and my desires, but about self-denial, about working for a greater cause, about serving a greater God than the god of “my way right away.” It is about life transformed by grace.

As we approach Mother’s Day, I am reminded that moms are given great tasks. When it comes to spiritual influence, God gave men the task of teaching in the church. He said that “woman are saved through childbearing” (1 Timothy 2:15).

What did he mean? I think he meant that a woman’s way of repairing the damage of the fall takes place through her influence on her children. She was not given the task of leading the church through teaching, but of raising her children to not follow in the ways of Eve, who for the pleasure of the moment brought a world full of hurt.

Children who don’t grow up usually come from families who didn’t make them grow up. Parents raised teenagers and left them there.

I wish I had all the answers. I don’t. So I will stop talking with this final word: Let’s grow up already.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

In the News

Two interesting stories juxtapose themselves in the Detroit Free Press this week.

In the first story, nine members of the Hutaree militia were ordered released on bond. They were arrested for plotting the death of law enforcements officers by luring one to a 911 call and killing him, and then attacking the funeral procession where many police officers would be killed. The judge released these dangerous people on bond, declaring that there was not enough evidence to hold them and hateful speech was protected by the First Amendment, even though the speech threatens an attack on the government with clearly laid out plans, including weapons. (A federal judge has stayed the release until Wednesday at 5:00 pm.)

In the second story, a man released on bond for multiple violations including being an absconder from probation for previous convictions and carrying a concealed weapon shot a killed a Detroit police officer early Monday morning. He wounded four others before taking a bullet to the back side. Today, a young wife is a widow and a young son is fatherless because a judge decided to release a dangerous man on bond.

The judge who ordered the release of the Hutaree must surely hope that the second scenario doesn’t take place again. That will be a heavy burden to bear for this gross misjudgment and irresponsible order.

The judge has imposed some strict bond conditions, such a home arrest, electronic tethers, surrendering passports and concealed weapons permits, and staying away from guns and drugs.

But this group strikes me as the type of group that is totally unmoved by government orders. If they were likely to submit to the authority of the government, they would not have have been plotting this attack in this first place.

In a land of freedom, there is also responsibility. And that responsibility falls as much to the judicial branch as to the citizens of this country. When a person or persons declare their intent to commit mass murder, and have laid out those plans, a responsible judiciary takes action; it does not release them to continue their plots.

Free speech has never included the right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater. Surely plotting to the mass murder of law enforcement officers is not less than that.

We have many dedicated police officers who place their lives on the line every day. Every call they go to is a potential grave for them. They know it. It is a life of risk.

Judges should not increase that risk by releasing people with violent histories and documented plots to kill law enforcement officers.

It is irresponsible. It is dangerous.

Hopefully, it won’t become tragic again.