Monday, February 02, 2004

Thoughts and Policy on Discussion


This is a free speech forum, and people will not be banned. But I would like to see it dominated by Christians of all stripes, who hold to the Nicene Creed (trinitarian, deity of Jesus, the bodily resurrection, etc.), and to be characterized by charitable, amiable discussion carried out with respect and consideration of others at all times. Non-Christians are most welcome, provided that they conduct themselves courteously, have a genuine curiosity about trinitarian Christianity, and do not try to overwhelm this forum with their particular agendas. My own particular interest (but by no means the only one) is in Protestant-Catholic discussion.


In order to better understand each other, we need to communicate, listen to each other, and become friends, if possible. Experience and knowledge of human nature teaches us that good, constructive dialogue is not possible unless there is openness, charity, and respect and courtesy shown to the other person. God gave us two ears and one mouth, but it seems that many folks use their one mouth four times as much as their two ears. I want dialogue to occur here, not lectures, speeches, and "mutual monologues." By all means, render your own opinion, but then be open to talking about it and having it challenged in a friendly manner.


Holding strongly to one's opinion (and even defending it vigorously) is not incompatible to listening to another position and respecting and liking the person holding it. A person's viewpoint is not the person. They are distinct. One way I have put this is to say that "apologetics and ecumenism are complementary, not contradictory." And "rational argument" is not the equivalent of "quarrel" or "brawl".


PLEASE keep in mind at all times that just because a person may hold what we believe is an erroneous viewpoint, that this is not necessarily (and, I think, relatively rarely) because they are wicked, evil, or obstinate. They may need to simply be more educated.

They may have had extremely bad teachers and mentors, or a terrible life history (i.e., various influential and debilitating handicaps). They may in fact change their mind very quickly if shown another viewpoint. Act like Jesus did towards the Roman centurion. Give them the benefit of the doubt, and be unassuming about their motives and intents. We can't read minds or hearts. In any event, "you catch more bees with honey, not vinegar." And we can learn many things from almost
anyone on the earth.


I must also make it very clear that (as on most blogs I have seen) I cannot answer all questions or even promise to comment on any individual comment thread (let alone all posts). Apart from the factor of the usual time-management issues, I will comment on whatever stimulates my interest, or to welcome newcomers, say hello to friends, and so forth. I reserve the right to be entirely selective. My non-comment should not necessarily be taken as a personal judgment or slight or a negative appraisal of the subject matter. I am most interested in discussing the theological and historical issues with Protestants, and in working together with all Christians, to fight the decadence and secularism and moral decay of our present culture.


Personal attacks will, unfortunately, be inevitable on this forum, as they seem to be everywhere else which allows free speech. If they are launched against myself, I plan (by God's grace and the aid of your prayers) on ignoring almost all of them and turning the other cheek (which is not my nature at all but I can try really hard if I put my mind to it!). If those of you who know me personally, or who are familiar with my work, wish to say a word on my behalf against scurrilous, slanderous attacks, I would appreciate that very much, and I think that is the way things should be in the Body of Christ (rather than people having to defend themselves against false charges).

If some attacks against me are seriously disturbing to anyone and raise doubts in their mind about something to do with me, and they would like to hear my side of the story, they can write to me privately.

Apologists like myself believe that certain things are true and other things false. This will always offend some people who don't agree with conclusions which differ from their own. Often this leads to personal attacks and insults, for lack of a cogent reply. It's very common, and (like the poor) will always be with us. I have a large and popular website and several published writings, and an eight-year history of Internet interactions, so I am a rather large target, and I have my quite-hostile critics out there. One doesn't go into apologetics to win a popularity contest.

I would advise all participants here to simply ignore posts where a person obviously wants to primarily insult and run down others personally, or to grind axes against Catholicism or Christianity in general, or certain denominations, or traditional moral values, or whatever it is. If you respond at all, then do so with much prayer and charity, and try to focus on actual substance in these posts, and ignore the attacks and nonsense.

Many such people simply want to get a rise out of others and to bait and goad them. That is defeated by ignoring the bait. If they don't get what they came to get, eventually they'll disappear (because they are deprived of the thrill and charge that motivates them to act in this fashion), and the quality of the blog threads will thereby be improved. Try it; it works almost every time.


There are certain types of posts I am not interested in at all, and I will not reply to them, with rare exceptions. These are:

1) anti-Catholics (those who think that Catholicism is not a Christian system of theology and doctrine) -- I've had virtually unanimously-bad experiences with these folks for thirteen years.

2) "traditionalist" Catholics: those who think they know more about the Catholic Church and its beliefs than the pope and ecumenical councils.

3) "know-it-alls" and anyone with an axe to grind, who is uncharitable and hostile, or who has a "machismo," "bulldog" or "verbal bully" mentality, or who wants to lecture and not dialogue. That could include certain people from any belief-system, folks who fall on any and all points of the so-called "conservative" and "liberal" continuum, or people who just don't care for me or someone else personally for some reason or other. They will certainly show up, if my eight years of experience on Internet boards and lists are any indication. If others want to talk to them, that's fine (you're free to do so here), but I will not, except in rare circumstances which I deem to be an exception to the rule, for whatever reasons.


This is a forum for discussing apologetics and ideas: for theology, biblical exegesis, Church history, comparative doctrine, and philosophy (and sometimes music and other lighter, fun subjects). As far as my own postings, they will be mostly (but not always) my own writings, intended to stimulate broader discussion and critique. I don't wish the blog to be about myself per se, however, but about ideas and Christian beliefs, which happen to be presented initially through one of my papers as the medium and subject matter to hopefully generate further discussion and dialogue. I very much desire for this to be a place where Christians of all stripes and all people of good will can get together for some great discussion and to form new friendships and foster understanding and respect.


Lastly, I don't care much at all, personally, for the Internet phenomenon of using nicknames, but I have to live with it. Better to dialogue with "C3PO" or "Thucydides" than no one at all, I suppose, and I understand that some people want or need privacy, for various reasons (some legitimate, some perhaps frivolous and unnecessary). But I would like to request that, whenever possible, people use their real names on this blog, so others will know who they are talking to, and to also freely indicate personal beliefs such as denomination, atheist, Muslim, etc. -- especially when asked (a website or blog listed would also help people get a handle on posters). I care for the policy of refusing to reveal one's own religious affiliations even less than I do for the pervasive nicknames. People are entitled to know where the other person is coming from. This makes for much better and fairer discussion, in my experience. If your dialogue partner knows what broad category you are in, that (at least potentially, if they are considerate) fosters more respect and understanding, because they will be able to be more sensitive to your particular opinions due to knowing what they are in the first place. Makes sense to me, anyway . . . I certainly talk and argue differently, depending on who I am talking to.

Slightly revised on 17 May 2012.

* * *

No comments: