e've had a hard week here at PyroManiacs. Some of our critics have been talking amongst themselves and decided that we are common bullies. We're theological thugs who will stand for no dissent.
At first, we lodged a mild protest: Every post here has an open comment-thread. We permit anyone to say anything he (or she) likes, with just a few simple rules to circumscribe the discussion. We ask that commenters keep their comments within the bounds of good taste and biblical propriety. We insist that they avoid profanity. We request that they stay on topic (or thereabouts). We don't particularly like it when someone posts spam. And we expect all our commentersfriends and foes aliketo take responsibility for their views and assertions.
But our commenters post lots of dissenting opinions. We get more people trying to pick fights with us than just about any blog I regularly read, with the possible exception of the gentlemen at Triablogue, and occasionally (depending on what he is dealing with) Tom Ascol.
Frankly, most blogs that deal with as many controversial issues as we do simply refuse to permit comments (including some who are generally friendly to our perspectives, and others who despise pretty much everything we stand for). It's hard to argue against the claim that most hostile comments are unedifying. Yet because some of these comments are edifying and others give us opportunities to clarify our views or improve our logic, we have opted to allow all comments.
I enjoy the feedback. (It's the most valuable aspect of blogging, if you ask me.) And we rarely ban anyone from commenting here.
As a matter of fact, Frank Turk singlehandedly doubled the size of our Banned-Commenters List yesterday by interdicting two commenters at once. But (despite the expressions of contempt one fresh commenter instantly spat at the whole blog) that's hardly a typical day at PyroManiacs.
The timing was somewhat unfortunate. Even before Frank banned the two antagonists, another blog was already sponsoring a comment-thread about how terribly gauche and mean-spirited we are over here. That thread has now deteriorated into a discussion about who among the three regular PyroManiacs posters is the most contemptible. (I would have expected Frank to be the clear hands-down winner if creative sarcasm truly equals cruelty, but to my surprise, Dan and I seem to be running neck and neck for the lead. No one has even seriously argued that Frank is our worst bullyeven though he is the only one among us who has actually banned anyone in the past six months, and he embargoed two at once.)
Anyway, I'd like to point out that apart from one unfortunate episode involving a frozen beef chub, none of us has ever stooped to threats of violence or aimed at being menacing. There is a legitimate place for righteous indignation, but even at our most curt, we don't ever deliberately use an angry tone instead of an argument.
So on what grounds do our critics call us "bullies"? Our chief sins, it seems, are these: We reserve the right to answer our critics with as much rhetorical force as they themselves employ. We have the bad taste to tell people who express disagreement with us that we still think they are wrong. Sometimes (especially when dealing with critics and gadflies who aren't being serious) we refuse to treat off-the-wall arguments seriously. In such instances, we might even state an opinion tersely or mix sarcasm with our disputation. We never (well, OK, rarely) change our theological opinions, a fact which is set forth as irrefutable proof that we lack humility. And we stubbornly refuse to submit our blog to postmodernism's rules of engagement.
We make no apology whatsoever for any of those things. If someone is upset with us for refusing to imbibe the spirit of postmodernism, we can direct you to some blogs you might like better, where the edges of truth are purposely made blurry and every kind of doctrinal mischief is politely taken on board as part of the "conversation."
On the other hand, we don't claim to be free of all guilt with regard to our words, our tone, or our attitudes. "We all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well" (James 3:2).
I'm a man of unclean lips (descended from ancestors who all had the same fault) and I live in a community of people who revel in having unclean lips. I freely confess that I stumble often and fail to bridle my tongue as I should. Moreover, it does indeed grieve me when someone is insulted or offended by something I have written, even if the offense stems from a misunderstanding.
So for those times when I have been unkind, thoughtlessly posted an insult, or put a real offense in someone's way, I sincerely beg forgiveness of the aggrieved parties. There are probably more instances of that than I realize, but, frankly, most of the complaints we get about our "tone" on the blog aren't specific enough or objective enough to be very helpful.
If someone wants to confront me about a specific offense, please quote the actual instances of my unkind or ungodly words, and show me my sin with reference to a biblical principle of righteousness (not merely postmodern standards of politeness). I would be eager to right any such wrongs, and it would be my duty to make an expression of repentance that's as public as the offense.
(I have no doubt that the other Pyros would echo the same thing, too.)
However, if the point is merely that you would prefer a milder tone at PyroManiacs, let's just say we get that. We would prefer not to see truth and error get jumbled all together in the Christian blogosphere and the compromise winked at in the name of brotherly kindness. Both goals are good and valid, but they do sometimes conflict.
Also, we're serious about what we are doing here, even if we sometimes inject some fun and silliness.
For the record, however, the post that touched off this week's anti-Pyro blitzkrieg was written with nothing but goodwill and benign intent, and without so much as a hint of foul temper in my heart. If I had even written something that could reasonably be interpreted as unfriendly or spiteful, the recent outpouring of rage and fury from our critics might be understandable, and I would crawl on broken glass to beg forgiveness if that's what it took to win my brothers.
But that's not what happened in this instance. I disagreed with someone's interpretation of something I wrote. I expressed my disagreement in a way that some of my readers found humorous. The person I disagreed with was not amused. I'm sorry about that. I did not offend anyone purposely. I'm terribly disappointed that someone was offended. But I said nothing unkind; I do disagree; and I still think the critic's original complaint was pretty far-fetched. I gotta be honest with you.
I will, however, be very careful what I BlogSpot in the future, so as not to call attention to any disagreements I might have with those who are so easily offended.
Incidentally, it has heretofore been my policy to BlogSpot just about anyone who links here via an actual in-post link. (You can't usually earn a BlogSpotting link by putting this blog in your blogroll.) I rarely include more than a single-sentence remark about a critic's reference. The point is to link them, not refute them, and I do try to be brief and fair.
In the future, however, I'm going to avoid linking to those who just seem to be spoiling for a fight.
To be clear: we're not hoping for a fight. But neither will we back away from a necessary fight (Jude 3) when a vital point of truth is at stake.
Now, how about some BlogSpotting?
This will be very short this week, because Blogger has been down for a couple of hours and I don't have an infinite amount of time. But without further ado:
- J. D. Hatfield liveblogged the Brandon Biblical Theology Conferenceby taped delay. Thanks to him for all the excellent work he did on this. It was great meeting you, "Even So..."
- Jeremy Writebol agrees that a person's eschatology isn't necessarily the best or only test of his orthodoxy.
- Nathan Casebolt is looking forward to a cage match on the lordship issue.
- Antonio da Rosa insists that "inevitable" and "automatic" mean precisely the same thing. Isn't that the same argument both radical Arminians and hyper-Calvinists use to try to set the doctrine of irresistible grace at odds with the principle of human responsibility?
- Tim Brown thinks we class up the neighborhood. He obviously lives in a very lowbrow neighborhood.
- Justin Taylor kindly posts the index of my articles on the lordship thing.
- Chris L. at "Fishing the Abyss" wants us to "reach out" to leaders in the Emerging Church movement to help them see the difference between compromise and legitimate "contextualization." That's pretty much what we do here. Sometimes when you are "reaching out" to people running like lemmings off a cliff with their iPods set on high volume, it helps to use a megaphone.
- Hey! Tim Jack was actually in my office. Unfortunately I missed him. I'm not sure why I was out, but I'm sorry I missed seeing you, Tim. Note to self: inventory books.
- Sean Higgins was here, too, and bought me lunch.
- Allen Mickle compromises the whole look and feel of his blog in a shameless bid to win a free T-shirt.
- Tom Powell liked the "I Can't Believe It's Not Biblical" tub. I think that was our most-noticed PyroGraphic ever.