Paul’s Admonitions to Bloggers (Well, to Timothy)

Do you ever read a passage of Scripture and think that Paul (or another biblical author) may have had a prophetic vision of blogging when he wrote it? In reality, the issues that come up in blogging are not new, they are just human foibles in a new format. Social media does not create new problems; it simply reveals old ones in a new way. I was reading a post at Mike Leake’s site, Borrowed Light, which had a link to an article at “Gentle Reformation” called, “Short Rules of Blogging.” In that post, the author quoted a verse from 2 Timothy 2, and it drove me to get the Bible out and read that passage. I thought, wow, Paul was talking right to us, the blogging community. Look at verses 14 through 26 of that passage.  I’ve not got a lot of time, so I’ll just quote the passage (ESV – as the Apostle Paul intended) and make a few random comments.

14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.

How many of our discussions become “quarrels about words” which are petty, small-minded and do not lead to the edification of the body of Christ? I sometimes go back to old posts and old comment streams and just get embarrassed about some of the things I said and some of the attitudes I displayed. There is a time to contend for the faith, but most of our blogging battles do not require that!

The word that is translated “quarrel about words” carries the idea of arguing over trifles. I have seen the following:

  • Massive arguments over trifling issues which produce ruined fruit!
  • An unwillingness to “let it go” or let the other person have the last word. Sometimes we take things to the extreme.
  • An unwillingness to admit that our debate opponent ever has a valid point or to refine our own views.

15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

I will confess something here that might sound egotistical. When I started blogging 7 or 8 years ago, no one outside of my family and Iowa knew who I was. Blogging has raised my profile. It is easy to let blogging become about making a name for yourself or achieving fame. It is a constant challenge to crucify the ego and write for the glory of God. But blogging (as a Christian exercise anyway) is an act of worship and we must “do our best to present ourselves to God as ones approved.”  I also must be careful to “rightly handle the word of truth,” and not just use it to make my point or win an argument.

16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene.

“Irreverent babble” comes from two words; one means “pointless” and the other means “empty talk.” In essence, this is all the discussion of “Sabanation!” More seriously, we have to be careful to see that all our words have an edifying and God-glorifying effect and do not damage others spiritually or “spread like gangrene.”

One of the tricks I have learned is to simply respond slowly. When someone insults me, my inner Don Rickles (young whippersnappers will have to look that one up) comes out. But, if I wait a while, think about my response, pray about it, let myself cool down, I usually can make a more edifying comment. Or, perhaps, no comment at all.

Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.

On the other hand, there is a time to name names and confront error, isn’t there? Paul got bellicose with those who messed with the gospel or with the faith of the saints. But, of course, he reserved this treatment for the real enemies of the gospel, not for those who disagreed with certain points of his theology. Those, he treated differently, as he will describe later in the passage.

19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

There is a lot in this passage, but I want to focus on a side issue here. The foundation of every believer’s spiritual life is God and the knowledge (ie personal relationship) that God has with them.

One of the things that I learned from Henry Blackaby, that I am afraid some of us in blogging have yet to learn is this. There is a Holy Spirit and I am not him. It is my job to speak truth but not my job to convince others of it. If what I am saying is true, the Spirit is my ally, my motivator and the enforcer of that truth. If what I am saying is wrong, do I really want to convince everyone of my error? I am glad that the foundation is God’s work and wisdom, not mine.

That is actually quite freeing.

20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

I want my blogging to be gold and silver, not wood and clay – of honorable use, not dishonorable. I must constantly cleanse myself from unclean and sinful attitudes and actions. Blogging will tend to bring out the worst in us, and so blogging rightly is a constant battle against the flesh, which I allow to win too often. But I must remember that the final word on my blogging is not my popularity, my blog traffic,my reblogs or mentions on Facebook or Twitter, it is the opinion of the Master whose interests I am to serve.

22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

In my experience, verse 22 has been used as an admonition against lust, pornography and sexual impurity. Flee youthful lusts, or passions. Good advice. True. But in context here, I think there is much more than just sex in view. Look at verse 23. It seems tied to an admonition to avoid foolish and ignorant (that which does not produce knowledge of God) arguments. I hate to sound condescending to the young whippersnappers, but I’m going to tell you my own story. When I was in college, I would argue to the death on just about any point of doctrine and would never admit I was wrong about anything. I can still fall back into that in my weak moments, even as an old fogey. But I think that one of the things I learn with age and maturity is that some battles aren’t worth fighting, or at least they aren’t worth fighting to the death.

I was a Calvinist before Calvinism was cool. In college (graduated in ’78), there were maybe three of us in the school. At Southwestern, there was Dr. Nettles, Dr. Vaughan, me and a few others, but I knew nothing of the others. I was in my cage phase back then and if you didn’t believe in predestination, election and reprobation, the genuineness of your salvation was in question. Over the years, I have modified my views a little, but mostly I have modified how I judged those who did not disagree with me. Back then, I consigned charismatics to heaven’s nuthouse. Now, I love them and have come to see the value in some of their beliefs.

24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness.

Note that this is the fourth time Paul has warned Timothy about being quarrelsome. Was that a problem Timothy had? I don’t know. But the key point here is that Paul distinguishes between being quarrelsome and being productive. Our job is to teach, with kindness, and to correct with gentleness. How often do we justify our contentiousness and quarrelsome behavior as “contending for the faith.” But Paul distinguishes between the empty, unproductive folly of quarrelsomeness and the value of kindness, patience and gentleness in our arguments.

One of the blessings of blogging has been the joy of becoming friends with David Rogers. He is a strong advocate of his viewpoints, but I’ve watched him (with jealousy) as he responds with gentle grace in the fact of some pretty overwhelming opposition, even insult. I want to be more like that.

God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

This passage ends with a good reminder. There is only one worthy reason to blog, it is to lead people to the knowledge of the truth, or to gain a better understanding of it myself. Our goal is to be “captured by him” and” to do his will.” If I remember my purpose, I will do a better job, perhaps, along the way as I use my words to honor him.

 

Comments

  1. Dave Miller says

    I’m a little embarrassed.

    My original intent, “I’ve not got a lot of time, so I’ll just quote the passage (ESV – as the Apostle Paul intended) and make a few random comments.”

    turned into 1600 words. Maybe that’s why I never let my congregation out on time.

  2. says

    I’m convinced that Job foresaw not only blogging, but USENET:

    “Will your long-winded speeches never end?
    What ails you that you keep on arguing?” (Job 16:3 NIV)

      • says

        I’m sure references to USENET mark me as something of a computer dinosaur. USENET was (actually, still is, but not used nearly as much as it used to be) a world-wide discussion network whose origins dated back before the public Internet, and continued to be heavily used many years into the Internet era. I still consider the typical USENET interface (confusingly called ‘newsreaders’) to be superior to the webforums that have largely supplanted USENET(on a good newsreader, you could easily handle all of the discussion groups you followed in one session(instead of having to wander from website to website, hoping you don’t forget to visit one where you’ve got messages waiting) , you could do things like mark threads that you no longer wanted to read, mark particular people whose posts you didn’t want to see, and pretty well control what you did and didn’t read). RSS readers for blogs and webforums try to make up the difference, but still fall short.

        And, believe me, the flamewars you would occasionally encounter on USENET would match or exceed the brouhahas you see in the blogging world.

      • Greg Harvey says

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usenet

        In short, broadly available internet news streams based on the Network News Transfer Protocol that are divided into categories (aka “groups”) and for all intents and purposes largely unmoderated. Usenet references USUALLY have an overtone of reference to the period of Internet use prior to general-public access when only research institutions and government institutions had access OR to the perceived nuclear apocalypse that occurred once the transition to general public access was underway.

        A lot of less than fully legal software used to get distributed via some of the binaries groups as well prior to widespread usage of torrents (which in many cases anonymize the source and the recipient through shared indexing that isn’t based on a single–and therefore law enforcement attackable–server. For a thoroughly modern reference, the kazaa p2p software is the basis of the skype architecture which makes skype EXTREMELY difficult to filter out of a home network.

        Some ISPs still maintain news group feeds that may (or may not) incorporate much (or very little) of the modern Usenet structure. Usenet DOT net is a commercial offering that provides access to news groups with some amount of support for some of the traditional Usenet hierarchies such as comp.*, sci.*, news.* and talk.* and especially refers to the Big Eight news hierarchies (those plus humanities.*, misc.*, soc.*, and rec.* ). A less rigidly administered set of alternative groups also emerged under the alt.* hierarchy. Other hierarchies emerged that are specific to nations (japan.*) and some technology “platforms” (gnu.*) but the Big Eight and the alt hierarchies are generally the most broadly distributed.

        The specific Usenet reference has to do with word wars within newsgroups which introduced point-by-point text responses and formatting that most of us now more widely associate with email “reply” formatting including text characters as callouts for quoted lines (>> Dave Miller: That would be hilarious, I’m sure, if I had any idea what USENET was.)

        I know: much more than you really wanted to know about penguins.

    • says

      USENET! TELNET! FTP!!

      And that lovely sound of dial-up 2400 baud until I talked Dad into a 56k modem. All that shareware that I downloaded at night—starting it at bedtime so that the phone line wasn’t tied up.

      Those were the days.

      • says

        My first internet exposure was a MUD game based in Norway. I got pretty sick soon after starting it and remember knowing it couldn’t happen but wondering if it did happen that I somehow picked up a freakish Norwegian bug.

        My first shareware game to download was Wolfenstein 3d on a 2400 baud.

          • says

            Dave,

            Sorry…

            The shiny boxy thing was really slow when it made my computer go bleep and bloop but in the end it gave me a really cool game where I got to shoot Nazi’s. One day, I got a faster shiny boxy thing.

          • Dave Miller says

            Actually, Wolfenstein 3D was the only part of that I understood. My second son used to play that awful game. Every hour playing that game cost the player 1/2 IQ points.

            How many hours did you play?

          • says

            The side baggage of this is that I knew about computers back when you wrote your own .BAT files to make it load to Windows, not to Windows, or to this neat little 8-color menu system.

            Now, I am assumed to “Know computers” when it’s all controlled by the Redmond/Cupertino Mafia Families, and the successors to Don Gates and Don Jobs. And I have no idea why it won’t do what it ought to do anymore.

        • says

          I had the cracked version of Wolf3d that had all the levels—and put the Barney hack in the original Doom.

          Then there were the MUDs and thousands of other things.

          Dave: that little box in your house? They’re not playing football in it, it’s actually a magic device that shows you where Iowa is not playing football in real life.

  3. Dale Pugh says

    I just read through this entire comment stream. Here’s what I got out of it:
    “Computer stuff…..blah, blah, blah……net this, net that, blah, blah…….Usenet, blah…..kazaa p2p, blah, blah, blah…….ISP, blah………video game…..”

  4. Truth Unites... and Divides says

    Dave Miller: “I’m going to tell you my own story. When I was in college, I would argue to the death on just about any point of doctrine and would never admit I was wrong about anything. I can still fall back into that in my weak moments, even as an old fogey.”

    Thanks.