Results tagged “internet” from Reformation21 Blog

Before You Post...

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Criticism is usually given much more freely on the internet than in person. It is one of the chief reasons why the internet seems to generate more heat than light. It is so easy to hit that "post" button when you don't have to face that person's reaction. In some ways, the internet can reveal our hearts better than personal interactions. This is why it is very important that we meditate on how to give and receive criticism. Proverbs tells us that the way we receive criticism marks us either as foolish or wise people.

Proverbs 9:7-12 occurs in a context of the choice between Lady Wisdom (verses 1-6) and Lady Folly (verses 13-18). The passage itself forms an envelope with chapter 1, especially since the fear of the Lord being the beginning of wisdom is located in both places (1:7 and 9:10). The key verse for my purpose here is verse 8 (in the ESV): "Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you."

The first (and rather obvious) point is that the wise one responds to criticism in exactly the opposite way to the fool. The wise man loves the one who reproves him. The foolish person responds with hatred and scorn for the messenger. The contrast is explained in the enveloping verses. The scornful person's response is laid out in more detail in verse 7. Abuse and injury are the results that the reprover can expect from trying to correct the scornful. Verse 9, however, shows that greater wisdom and learning will be the result from reproving the wise man.

This shows us the underlying attitude towards correction and rebuke that the foolish and the wise have. The foolish person believes that he cannot improve anywhere, and that he is perfect just the way he is. He has enough experience in the ways of God, or he has enough letters after his name, in order to be someone of importance. That means he has arrived. The wise man, however, realizes that he is so far from God's standard that he always has room for improvement, no matter how mature he is in the Christian faith, how old he is, or how educated he is.

How is this possible? What is the logic here? The answer is in verse 10. If a person fears God, he will not fear man. Fear of God and fear of man is a zero-sum game. They cannot co-exist peacefully. The wrong reaction to criticism stems from the fear of man. Read that last sentence again. So, if a person fears God, he will react quite differently to criticism, because he is not trying to look good in front of men, but is instead seeking to please his God. It will be a perception of iron sharpening iron, rather than personal attacks. The person who fears God does not wrap up his identity in how other people think of him. Instead, his personal worth is entirely dependent on what God thinks of him. The wise man would rather look foolish to the whole world, rather than be foolish in God's eyes.

Our reaction to criticism, therefore, shows us the degree of pride and arrogance in our hearts, especially when the criticism has a mixture of truth and error in it, as is often the case. Do we focus on the incorrect part of the criticism, or do we seek for what is true in the criticism? If we are honest, we will have to admit that criticism is not our favorite way of gaining wisdom. We would rather get it from a book that isn't directly attacking us, or from someone who always phrases things in a positive way. Here, however, the proverb is plain: we are fools to hate the messenger who criticizes us, especially if that criticism has any validity whatsoever. Instead, we should thank the messenger for pointing out our blind spots.

When reviled, Jesus did not revile in turn. With Jesus, of course, all criticism is wide of the mark. He was actually perfect. There is no valid criticism of Him whatsoever. So, did Jesus blow up when people reviled Him? He was as a lamb silent before its shearers. This kind of thinking is quite foreign to most of us. If even the slightest criticism comes our way, we start World War III, even if the criticism is true! But if a calm reaction is Christ's response to wrongful criticism, then how much more positively should we receive criticism that has any truth in it?

So, our reaction to criticism should be much more humble. When criticism comes our way, we should analyze the criticism to see if there be anything true in it. If there is, we should be glad of that, and take it to heart. Anything that is not true should simply roll off our backs. We do not need to defend ourselves from every attack that comes our way.

Furthermore, we do not need to correct everyone on the internet who is wrong. A little application of the golden rule would greatly improve internet culture. Ask yourself if you would want to receive the criticism you are about to dish out. Ask yourself if you are writing in anger (don't do that unless you are absolutely convinced that it is a righteous anger, and even then you might want to ask someone you trust if it is so) or from love. If you are angry, you should be extremely hesitant to write anything. Ask yourself if you would say the same thing to that person if they were standing right in front of you. Use some imagination and seek to discern how the other person will perceive what you write. Pray about what you write. It is not a bad idea to pray over every comment and post that you write. Stick to the issue at hand, and do not attack the person. Insults immediately close people's ears.

Be wise about criticism, and not foolish. One has to think about these things in advance. There is no time to develop wisdom on the spot, in the middle of a cat fight. Think these things through in advance. Learn from your mistakes, and grow.

I mean, once Trueman refused to give up the black shoes and socks when at the beach of Harvey Cedars NJ, it was clear some things were settled! But there is still hope...

Reformation21.org is the flagship of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals online flotilla. It is joined by PlaceforTruth.org which offers biblical theology with a large dose of exegete and ChristwardCollective.org parsing out solid biblical doctrine from younger contributors not afraid to stand on the theological shoulders of the Reformers. These great resources are central to the Alliance's mission of proclaiming biblical doctrine in order to foster a Reformed awakening in today's Church.

So it would be very hard to improve those things. But we did improve some of the technical aspects of the site (with a view to rebuild it entirely in early 2015). So look around, try them out, and let us know what you think of:

- Printable pages on the articles, blog posts, and reviews. No longer will those pesky (but I advocate interesting) side bars be printed with the content you are wanting to share.
- Social sharing buttons have long been needed. Now you can share a post with friends through social media or email it to your 'socially challenged' Uncle Bob!
- Better contributor access can be found on the contributor page. This will allow you to fit any and all contributors to r21, and find all of their submissions as well.
- A lot of clean up of those aforementioned side bars. There we removed some dated sections and incorporated it right into the blog. We also right sorted the previous devotions so you can start reading and using them from the top down.
- And we improved the navigation. You can move back and forth between pages in any section easier (who thought a list of prior years and months was a helpful system?). And you can also find across the top common navigation across the entire Alliance, moving from one site to another, and back again.

So, while it's the reformation21 you have trusted and used for years, I hope these small changes will increase its function and encourage its use. And should you have other ideas or needs, we would love to hear from you. Please email me at rbrady@AllianceNet.org and share your ideas and I would also love to hear how r21 has been helpful for you and your Church too!

Book bites

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A couple of bits and pieces to recommend, either of which you might already have sampled, I hope to your edification.

First, Antinomianism by Mark Jones (Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk/Westminster). We are not lacking expressions of the blunter forms of antinomianism in our day, but the phenomenon is actually far more subtle than a rejection or amelioration of the abiding relevance of the Ten Commandments as a binding code on the conviction and behaviour of regenerate men and women. Jones plunges into the seventeenth century to bring out some of the very fine distinctions and seemingly slight but vital shifts of emphasis that expose antinomianism as a system both in its older and more modern forms. Here you will find something of the breadth of the heterodoxy involved, and also the breadth of the orthodox response (in which there were also some differences of opinion). Particularly helpful are Jones' pastoral concern for those exposed to this kind of ministry and his determination to offer a thoroughly Christological corrective. This is a cracking little volume, though if you cannot even spell the word newance you are likely to have some issues with it. You might yourself wish to massage a few of his conclusions but the book is a timely reminder of what Jones suggests is "Reformed theology's unwelcome guest." As a historical and theological frame of reference for issues that we are facing again today, this slim but thoughtful work should prove extremely useful.

Second, The Shallows by Nicholas Carr (Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk). This is the gent who wrote the famous essay asking whether or not Google is making us stupid. This is not a Christian book, nor is it a diatribe against technology. Thoroughly naturalistic in its approach, with no real room for the spiritual or supernatural, it is nevertheless a penetrating volume. Carr considers the potent effect of the interweb on our brains, its effective training of us into certain patterns of thought, its profound and even deliberate impact on our assimilation and assessment and retention of data. Stimulating in style, broad in scope, balanced in approach, pointed in warning, I think that Christians who act and interact in large measure online would do well to read this book, put it in the context of their Scriptural convictions, and carefully examine the extent to which we are being formed and influenced by the media through which we now access and receive so much of our information, let alone our theological instruction.