A Word to Internet Busybodies and Wiki-leak Christianity

Tim Brister —  November 19, 2011 — 13 Comments

It seems that in recent years, several groups of people have sought to use the Internet and in particular blogs to “expose” or “hold accountable” Christian leaders.  And so often, we are prone to believe what other people say about a brother or sister in Christ, especially if it is critical or some sort of exposé.  We may not be the ones to spread the gossip and slander, but we are not opposed to entertaining it either.  The later I find more subtle and dangerous, because we can justify being uncharitable and unChristian by “a pursuit of the truth.”  In most cases, Christian leaders are judged guilty until proven innocent.

This morning, I read a word from Octavius Winslow’s Morning Thoughts that addresses this sort of behavior directly.  I want to provide the entire devotion for you below.  Now, hear what Winslow is saying and not what he is not saying.  We indeed should care for truth, integrity, godliness, and so on, but the way in which we honor truth must also honor the call to love one another as Christ has loved us.  When it comes to busybodies on the Internet, anonymous bloggers calling out Christian leaders, or the like, it seems very unlikely that the driving principle and motivation of the heart is redemption and reconciliation expressed in genuine Christian love . . .

TRUE Christian love will excite in the mind a holy jealousy for the Christian reputation of other believers. How sadly is this overlooked by many professors! What sporting with reputation, what trifling with character, what unveiling to the eyes of others the weaknesses, the infirmities, and the stumblings of which they have become cognizant, marks many in our day. Oh! if the Lord had dealt with us as we have thoughtlessly and uncharitably dealt with our fellow-servants, what shame and confusion would cover us! We should blush to lift up our faces before men.

But the exercise of this divine love in the heart will constrain us to abstain from all envious, suspicious feelings, from all evil surmisings, from all wrong construing of motives, from all tale-bearing—that fruitful cause of so much evil in the Christian Church—from slander, from unkind insinuations, and from going from house to house retailing evil, and making the imperfections, the errors, or the doings of others the theme of idle, sinful gossip—“busy-bodies in other men’s matters.” All this is utterly inconsistent with our high and holy calling. It is degrading, dishonoring, lowering to our character as the children of God. It dims the luster of our piety. It impairs our moral influence in the world.

Ought not the character of a Christian professor to be as dear to me as my own? And ought I not as vigilantly to watch over it, and as zealously to promote it, and as indignantly to vindicate it, when unjustly aspersed or maliciously assailed, as if I, and not he, were the sufferer? How can the reputation of a believer in Jesus be affected, and we not be affected? It is our common Lord who is wounded—it is our common salvation that is injured—it is our own family that is maligned. And our love to Jesus, to His truth, and to His people, should caution us to be as jealous of the honor, as tender of the feelings, and as watchful of the character and reputation, of each member of the Lord’s family, be his denomination what it may, as of our own.

“Who is weak,” says the apostle, “and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?” Oh how graciously, how kindly does our God deal with His people! Laying His hand upon their many spots, He seems to say, “No eye but mine shall see them.” Oh! let us in this particular be “imitators of God, as dear children.” Thus shall we more clearly evidence to others, and be assured ourselves, that have “passed from death unto life.”

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  • Matt Foreman

    I’ve always been struck by how carefully Jesus deals with Judas in John 13 – protecting his reputation and holding out friendship to the very end – all the while knowing that the betrayal had already been conceived. That should be our inclination as well.

  • http://gravatar.com/justinianscode Tim

    It’s not just anonymous bloggers who engage in this kind of so-called discernment ministry. There are a couple of much beloved websites (if the commetns here and elsewhere are an indication of popularity) that I have stopped reading. Too much chest thumping – at times in a self righteous tone – and nowhere near enough grace and humility. So I exercise my prerogative to not read them any longer.

    Thank you for a timely and gracious post.

    Tim

  • http://hereiblog.com/ Mark

    Tim,

    I love you man, but I have to ask you something.

    Would you consider a public, i.e. blog, response to Morris Chapman’s comments about Calvinism and the SBC, for example, to qualify under your descriptions of “Internet Busybodies and Wiki-leak Christianity”?

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      No. Not unless the blog response was an attack on the person or an attempt to bring up dirt to publicly malign him.

      Public comments and theological positions held by a person are not the same thing as someone creating a blog or writing blogposts to bring someone down. I do think, however, that it seems from the sheer volume of commentary by some online that they would be more useful with time and energy spent elsewhere (e.g., the local church).

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      BTW, I voted for you. Numerous times. ;) Hope you get the 10k.

  • Diane

    Hello and thanks for your article. Although I understand what you are saying and absolutely loved the Winslow devotional, I am not understanding your first paragraph. I do not think that you are implying by your first sentence that holding Christian leaders accountable is wrong. I am not sure, though, what you mean by internet busybodies–do you have any examples you can give? Secondly, you say that so often we are prone to believe what others write, esp. if critical. I am sure you meant that as your opinion. That is not true for me. But, it does make me wish to investigate further to be as informed as possible if it is something I care about….which, of course, is a good thing. It seems to me that in the next sentence you define critical as gossip and slander. Not everything critical is gossip or slander; you are not saying that, are you? And being informed, weighing information, looking at the fruit of a Christian leader is not necessarily “entertaining it’…as if it is a delight. It is, in fact, grievous and sad. I do not know how can you make the claim that “In most cases, Christian leaders are judged guilty until proven innocent.” Do you have proof for that claim or is that your opinion? I think believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit are able to read without declaring a guilty sentence upon someone.

    • Lou

      Diane, I agree with some of your comments and questions. Leaders are and must be held to a higher standard. Gossip and slander, of course not. But if the secular community can call Joe Paw to account, then I see nothing wrong with the laity calling out abuse, neglect, or wolflike behavior in our leaders. There is of course, a proper way to do this. So we pray for discernment not only in the leaders, but also in our own views.

  • http://alindsey4.blogspot.com Andrew Lindsey

    Excellent post, brother!
    [Deleting the multi-part expose of Timmy Brister I was about to publish on my blog.]

  • Timothy Snider

    I really like Diane’s comment above and look forward to the answers to her questions.

  • http://www.calvinistgadfly.com Frank Turk

    Everyone’s a critic — except those who are critical of the critics.

  • http://www.calvinistgadfly.com Frank Turk

    I would also add you can usually gage the seriousness of someone’s introspection to the degree that they can abide others inspection. For me, that’s the second self-check: does it bother me when someone criticizes what I have actually done, or am I by default not interested in what others have to say — does criticism make me self-righteous?

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