By Spencer D Gear
‘Walking away from forums’ is the title of a thread started on an Internet forum. One replied with this provocative comment:
‘That’s the whole problem, its (sic) the bible that is argued about, not necessarily scripture’. My reply to this was: ‘That’s part of the issue that drives me away from forums, your quibbling over Bible being different from Scripture. They are one and the same. It’s only your invented difference’.
Another response was: ‘Seems you folks are a bit arrogant…. the forums should be considered a learning experience, getting another persons’ (sic) opinion, and quotes from the Bible, and conveying your own opinion. It is not about winning or losing, it is about sharing knowledge and information, especially about the Bible’. My response was: ‘I think you have a point. I don’t think it’s a matter of arrogance but of seeing little being achieved. Perhaps we should look at Christian forums this way: ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’ (Prov 27:17 NIV). But it too often turns into a battlefield of one wanting to defeat the other’.
A. Mature comment by the owner
The owner of Christianity Board forum had some perceptive observations to make. He didn’t see any ‘real’ disconnect between the forum and the world though on forums, there could be more overt in rudeness mixed with being more open than in face-to-face interaction.
He admitted to getting frustrated with people regularly and has thought of walking away from forums as he did with Facebook, but he regretted that decision because of memory of great discussions he has had with people. He tried to use the medium to point people to Christ but he admits to being too political and wanting to score points at times. The better view, he claimed, was that of Andy Stanley who thought for the long-term and the desire to make a difference.
He pointed to the need for maturity in forums to realize people needed a Damascus Road experience like Paul and there are so many who can be reached through forums that, like Jesus’ use of the parable of the seeds, germination may come later, in God’s time.
He wanted to develop the wisdom to know that beyond disagreement, people are made in God’s image and are fallen human beings just as we are. That’s the hard part in dealing with people. He admitted that too often his opinion of the Bible is used to trump anyone else’s and that leads to squabbling and name-calling, just as it does in real life where Christians have been known to shoot their wounded.
I commended him for such a mature response:
That’s an exceedingly mature observation and I commend you for such penetrating observations.
I find the forum to be a place where considered views can be expressed that are not possible with instant conversation. Research is possible for the forum but not in person-to-person. Many are not able to give off the cuff comments about: (1) Why there are objections to Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles; (2) Why didn’t Jesus say more about homosexuality? (3) What kind of national health scheme is best for the country? etc.
B. A bit arrogant
To the earlier comment that some folks in this thread were a bit arrogant, someone replied: ‘That’s what I thought, too…. Very few people seem to be here to discuss. Almost everyone fancies him/herself to be a teacher…the “Ultimate Authority” on all things Christian. That idea that what we are doing here is “arguing about Scripture” seems pretty prevalent here’.
C. A bigger issue
My response to this perspective was:
In any forum, we are dealing with several issues that Paul addressed in his letter of 2 Timothy:
1. ‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth’ (2 Tim 2:15 NIV).
This is a challenge to all workers (Christians?) to be people who ’cut straight’ (i.e. rightly handles), a metaphor that probably means doing something correctly (but there has been considerable discussion over its exact meaning). The call is for those who deal with the Word of truth to do it in a correct manner.
2. ‘Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will’ (2 Tim 2:23-26 NIV).
Gently dealing with arguments and controversy is critical for any discussion on the ‘Word of truth’ but opponents of the truth, nevertheless, need teaching, and to be ‘gently instructed’ so that they come ‘to a knowledge of the truth’ and not slip into ‘the trap of the devil’. It is serious business in teaching God’s people ‘the word of truth’ whether in a church or here on Christianity Board.
3. ‘Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths’ (2 Tim 4:2-4 NIV).
These are ominous verses for the Internet gives unlimited opportunities to ‘preach the word’ but such preaching requires people who will ‘correct, rebuke and encourage’ but ‘with great patience and careful instruction’. This is a difficult calling. Many on the Internet do not like this kind of correction.
In fact, the time is coming when ‘sound doctrine’ may be prevented from being aired on the Internet. Could a time be coming when some Christian leaders may have to establish orthodox Christian forums because of the lack of sound doctrine being perpetrated on other forums? I’m not suggesting that is happening here.
There is an awesome responsibility for forum owners and moderators to maintain vigilance in upholding biblical orthodoxy in doctrines on forums.
Honestly, I’ve encountered some trite and heretical responses on 6 different Christian forums over the last 10 years. I think that these forums are places for interacting over biblical issues and may be used as outreach. However, it is hard to see how that can happen with so much ‘fighting’ over doctrines.
I see my place in forums as to present the case for evangelical Christianity while correcting some false doctrine. Even today, I’ve been interacting on another forum on the topic, ‘Why do some believers of Christ feel the bible is without error?’ The topic I’ve been dealing with has been the denial of the authorship of the pastoral epistles by Paul. The view presented was that of theological liberalism and its denial of Pauline authorship. Another view needed to be presented and nobody seemed to be doing it so I put up my hand.
 ATP started the thread, ‘Walking away from forums’, on 15 August 2015 at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/21806-walking-away-from-forums/#entry257399. However, his original post is no longer on the thread, except as answered at #2. He is no longer participating in the thread (Accessed 17 August 2015).
 Ibid., mjrhealth#4.
 Ibid., OzSpen#10.
 Ibid., heretoeternity#7.
 Ibid., OzSpen#11.
 Ibid., Hammerstone#17.
 Ibid., OzSpen#18.
 Ibid., The Barrd#19.
 Ibid., OzSpen#22.
 Christian Forums.com, fatboys#1, 6 August 2015, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/why-do-some-believers-of-christ-feel-the-bible-is-withou-error.7901181/ (Accessed 17 August 2015). Fatboys stated that he is a Mormon.
 See ibid., OzSpen#183, OzSpen#185, OzSpen#189, OzSpen#192, OzSpen#197.
Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 November 2015.