But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men…I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.” (Acts 5:34-35, 38b, ESV)
Not every aspect of Gamaliel’s counsel is applicable in the concept of a just blog-war. I have provided his quote in order simply to highlight one aspect of his thought—his willingness to embrace a strategy that does not depend entirely upon his own actions or the actions of any other man or group of men. Gamaliel believed in God and had enough confidence in God to leave God’s work to God. To think that you must vanquish through your blogging efforts alone is an atheistic idea.
I see a similar rationale illustrated in David’s interaction with his harsh critic Shimei (2 Samuel 16:5-14) and commanded in Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Romans 12:19). Warfare in the Bible, where it is exemplary, often takes place in such a way as to require human soldiers to defer in unconventional ways to the hand of Almighty God (see, for example, Gideon’s victory over Midian in Judges 7).
I think there’s a place in blog-war to leave room for the hand of God to work. This is particularly true in dialogue among believers, who share the Holy Spirit. Blogging becomes abusive and destructive, according to my observation, not when the first person strikes the first blow (unless your first blow is ridiculous), but when the Internet dogpile gains a full head of steam. Somewhere short of there, if we believe in the ministry of the Holy Spirit, perhaps we ought to leave a little time for the “target” to reflect, pray, and hear the voice of God. I think that most people find that more difficult to accomplish in the heat of battle.
Flight training involves introduction to a concept known as Pilot-Induced-Oscillation (PIO). PIO occurs when a pilot, trying to steer the aircraft in one direction, turns too far in that direction (because there is generally a small lag between a pilot’s input and the aircraft’s response). The pilot must then steer in the opposite direction, and the pilot who lacks the finesse to stop at the right heading when turning left often also lacks the finesse to stop at the right heading when turning right, so he may overshoot once again. The cause of PIO is what flight instructors call “overcontrolling.”
How do flight instructors correct overcontrolling? Here’s what mine did. He said, “For small corrections in instrument conditions, turn the yoke until you see the first indication on the instruments that the aircraft is turning. At that point, stop your input and let the aircraft do what it is going to do.”
Likewise, in blogging warfare I think there may be wisdom in the idea, after you have provided enough input that you think perhaps ought to prompt some sort of change, to take a deep breath and withdraw, patiently waiting to see what might happen. Sun-Tzu wouldn’t approve, but I think Gamaliel would. It only makes sense, after all, if you believe in the Holy Spirit.