Friday, September 30, 2011

How Not To Comment On This Site

To another post I have rejected the following comment:

"But it is open season on the TEC Presiding Bishop, the Most Revd Katharine Jefferts-Schori because you have no admiration for her.

How about those prince bishop clowns from Africa? They live in Africa, but do not have the balls to confront what is happening in Zimbabwe, in their own backyard, but they can let wealthy Statesonian schismatics foot the bill for a luxurious trip taking them half way around the world to meddle, suck up to a ruthless regime and criticize other provinces, but hey, you likely admire them."

Let me give my reasons:

(1) A judgement is being made on whether or not I have any admiration for ++KJS without supporting evidence being given so that the effect of the judgement is to presumptuously offer insight into the state of my soul. As a matter of fact I admire some things I see ++KJS doing and saying and do not admire other things. As occasion arises here critical comment will be made on the statements or actions of leaders within the Communion who catch my eye, the critical comment matching the degree to which I assess that leader having influence over the future unity of the Communion.

(2) "clowns" is not an acceptable term to describe any fellow Anglicans in a general statement about them.

(3) "schismatics" is a publishable term but controvertible as it is a moot point on this site as to whether the "schismatics" are those who left or those who have driven their former church to the point where those who have left have felt they had no other choice but to leave.

(4) "to meddle, suck up to a ruthless regime" is an accusatory statement about the leadership of bishops which is so vague and general as to warrant not publishing. Yes, bishops have  criticized other provinces. 

(5) "but, hey, you likely admire them" again a judgement is being made without evidence as to what is going on in my soul. As a matter of fact I admire some things I see some African bishops doing and saying and do not admire other things.

I request commenters here to raise the standard of comments and to refrain from terms of abuse and presumptuous judgement about the attitudes and motives of myself and other commenters here. Let's stick to discussing issues, questions, known facts, and published opinions.


Brother David said...

Let's stick to discussing issues, questions, known facts, and published opinions.

Publishing/adjudicating/vetting comments that proclaim the TEC Presiding Bishop, the Most Revd Katharine Jefferts-Schori, to be a heretic and declaring that she is not a sister in Christ, meets this standard?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David
I have been remiss if I have allowed comment through which has declared that ++KJS is not a sister in Christ.

I have also been remiss if I have allowed comment through which has proclaimed her a heretic without supporting reasoning for the claim also being given, in particular citing actual published comments.

I shall try to be more vigilant as I seek to improve the level of commenting on this site.

Fr. J said...

Fun with internet trolling. It's like a rite of passage to get a comment like that. Your post makes me think of a great video by one of my favorite video podcasters, the Lutheran pastor Jonathan Fisk:

Father Ron Smith said...

With reference to your comment about use of the word 'schismatic' on your web-site, Peter: from what I understand of the dictionary term, 'schismatic' relates to those who 'break away from' an established organisation on a matter of disputed theological method or praxis.

Why, then, would you not consider, e.g., ACNA, as being a schismatic body? After all, it did split from TEC on an issue of disputed praxis?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,

If a husband determines that his wife and family should embark on a course of action that they do not agree with but initially go with for the sake of peace, and if in the course of that action, the wife and family become more and more concerned about the direction they are heading in, and if despite pleas from themselves and friends of the family, nothing changes so that, finally, the wife and children vacate the situation, has the wife and children left the husband, or has he forced them out?

carl jacobs said...

Peter Carrell

I have been remiss if I have allowed comment through which has declared that ++KJS is not a sister in Christ.

Since this is obviously about me, I thought I would respond.

When I first wandered onto the Anglican blogs back in 2006, I spent as much time on the liberal blogs as I did on the conservative blogs. I didn't engage much on the liberal blogs, but I read voraciously and continued to do so for about 18 months. When I did engage, I was deluged with comments like 'bigot' and 'hater' and 'homophobe' and 'Nazi' and 'bibliolator' and a whole list of other epithets that don't need to be named. Once I asked a Gay opponent "How do I make the case against homosexuality without being called a homophobe?" He responded "You can't." Which said it all. People approach an argument with certain givens, and those givens inevitably drive certain conclusions. Do I consider homosexuality a sexual perversion? The I am by definition a hater and a bigot and a homophobe. Progressives adopt this logic like a fish adopts water. They don't consider it abuse. They consider it the axiomatic conclusion of right reason. That's also why I pay no attention to these labels. I understand the theology that drives them. I reject this theology as false, and so I need take no heed of labels that proceed from a false theology.

I am what most people here would call a Conservative Evangelical. Given that theological starting point, I am inevitably driven to certain conclusions - one of which is that KJS is an apostate. This is not a conclusion over which I have a choice. I know what she teaches because I have read it. I know the doctrinal limit of the Christian faith and she has exceeded it. To accept KJS as a legitimate Christian would for me entail denying every Christian essential I hold to be true. It would require that I define 'Christian' in relational and not doctrinal terms. This I cannot and will not do.

You have said that it is impermissible for me to deny that KJS is my sister in Christ. Understand first that to me this is a theological and not a relational assertion. It is an inevitable conclusion of right theology. Even so, I am open to suggestions for an alternative. What do I call someone who:

1. Worships a different god.

2. Follows a different Christ.

3. Teaches a different gospel.

The truth of these statements in regard to KJS is axiomatic to me as a conservative evangelical. If you demand that I deny these three assertions, then you have precluded my position a priori. What then am I to do?

I shall comply with your instructions to the best of my ability, but I will not compromise the truth. You have said to me that you appreciate that I write boldly. Indeed, I do. I do not pull my punches. People do not mistake where I stand. I say in blunt and unambiguous words what others might couch in euphemism. I despise euphemisms. I would rather my words were sharp enough to clearly divide truth from falsehood.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl and other commenters,

First a word of explanation, remembering please that I am "judge and jury" on moderation: I have published your comment above though it includes assertions I am not wanting to publish per se because your comment is an explanatory comment as to why you have written such things in the past, and also because you are inviting me to comment on how you might comment.

In my view what I am asking is for commenters here to focus on (in this case) published expressions of opinion. That means if public figure X has publicly stated (or been reported as stating) that they believe Something-held-to-be-or-argued-to-be-heresy, then one might comment on how when X said Such-and-such (say) many have commented that they think this is heresy, or (say) this seems to be an expression of heresy when viewed against the Nicene Creed.

It is drawing a long bow to say of X that he or she "is an apostate" or "is an heretic" unless there is both quite a body of published views and there is quite a body of opinion that these views constitute apostasy or heresy.

In the particular case of ++KJS she is not a widely published author, she has made some statements which have been viewed sceptically but which have also been defended as appropriately ambiguous in respect of pinning the view down to be, precisely, heresy.

Further, in the particular case of your assertions that she worships another god etc, these are very strong judgements to make which need to be backed up if they are to be published on a blog such as this which is trying to raise the standard of comments.

What are some ways forward here for you (because neither you nor any other commenter here is someone I wish to see cease to comment ... the only commenters I wish would stop commenting are computer-generated robotic "You have a nice blog, I will visit it often" commenters!!)?

(1) A little more prefacing of a comment: "I realise not everyone holds to this view, but my reflection on X's views are that these views are heterodox" (note the focus on the views being heterodox and not the holder of them); or "I personally would not be able to take communion if Y were presiding at communion" (note the emphasis on your own stance, not on Y's); or "As I define being a Christian to mean one who is baptised as an adult, you will understand that I do not accept most Anglicans as Christians" (note the emphasis on prior definition as reason for proceeding to a concluding judgement).

I hope this helps. Remember that Origen did a lot of good in biblical and theological scholarship though some of what he believed was and is vigorously disputed as being heterodoxy if not heresy.

Paul Powers said...

Your blog. Your rules.

However, when you strip away the offensive language, the disallowed comment raises an interesting issue. When should the church speak out on injustice and oppression, and when is "quiet diplomacy" the wiser course of action?

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for comments to date.

Am likely offline for 48 hours, will post any comments when and if connection possible/resumed.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, with all due respect to your comment likening schism with the break up of a husband and wife - I really do not think that computes easily.

The latter case involves specific personal relationships, which, in the Church, are being held together all the time - despite different views on theological and doctrinal matters.

Schism is not a word one would apply to the breakdown of a marital relationship.

Schism is the correct term for one who leaves a particular religious body because of what he/she/they perceive to be irreconcilable doctrinal differences; preferring to embrace another set of doctrines from the parent body - e.g. ACNA.

Regarding the word apostate, I have not, nor ever would accuse one of my own faith community as apostate.

C. Wingate said...

I have always been uncomfortable at best and more generally, aggrieved and annoyed at language which accuses clerics of worshipping "a different God" or "a different Jesus", and I'm only moderately more tolerant toward "a different gospel." OK, if someone starts making offerings to Vishnu, that's definitely worshipping a different god; and I'd say that the Mormons worship a different Jesus. Even Arius, however, I will allow as to having worshipped the God and having attempted to follow the Jesus, however wrongly. These kinds of accusations are empty rhetorical calories, the high fructose corn syrup of conservative church argument.

Personally, my chief problem with our presiding bishop as a theological spokesman is not so much that she speaks heresy, but that what she says is so hideously muddled. (I also have my problems with her administration and her choice of liturgical clothiers, but that's less germane here.) If she says something in particular that one views as problematic, well, that point can be addressed on its own. The point of passing judgement on Whom she worships and follows seems to be to deprive her of her legitimacy, and I think any man may be challenged in that revolt. I keep a short list of people whom I refuse to take communion from, but it is, after all, my list, and I can lay no obligation on anyone else.

I have my problems with progressive rhetoric too. So why emulate it? My hope in Anglicanism was always that we were the sort of people who could rise above that and treat our opponents as people rather than unspeakables.

carl jacobs said...

C. Wingate

OK, if someone starts making offerings to Vishnu, that's definitely worshipping a different god; and I'd say that the Mormons worship a different Jesus.

Interesting. What separates a Hindu from a Christian? Doctrine. What separates a Mormon from a Christian? Doctrine. Hindus and Mormons believe very different truths than Christians. that's how you differentiate between the two. In both cases you have presumed undefined doctrinal boundaries and made judgments accordingly. It would be helpful if you would define those boundaries. Of course the definition cannot be meaningless like "Formal agreement to the words of the Nicene creed." Unless we agree on what those words actually mean, we haven't agreed on anything at all. Once the boundaries are established, then we can examine who sits comfortably within them.

More to the point, the ideas expressed in your post illustrate why the Anglican Communion is ripping itself in two. A single organization cannot contain two mutually exclusive theologies. One side defends as essential what the other side dismisses as non-essential or perhaps corrupt and malicious. Unless one side or the other changes its mind about essentials, there is no way to resolve this conflict. The only possible outcome is division. That's why you see this fight repeating itself over and over again in various and sundry denominations. The result is always the same.


Father Ron Smith said...

In response to Carl, I beg to differ.

People often differ in opinion - even theologically - it ever was so. What is destructive of the traditionally liberal Anglican perspective is when we, so to speak, 'spit the dummy', self-centredly withdrawing ourselves from koinonia on matters that are not creedal or the esse of the Christian faith, e.g. matters of biological difference that involve gender and sexuality.

The Bible, after all, is a creature of its own day and age - with some lack of insights on the realities of human biological factors that are now available through science and research.

When Christians refuse to dialogue on what would seem to be matters of importance to the resolution of problems affecting one sector of society - that seemingly are not acknowledged to be problems by the others; dialogue is absolutely necessary - without prejudice and rancour.

When we withdraw from the Family because of our own view about its behaviour; we are closing the door to reconciliation - one of the most important tasks of the Church.

Brother David said...

Carl, you just described the division between the Eastern and Western Christian churches. So as Western Christians are we to regard the Eastern churches as not being Christian?

carl jacobs said...

Brother David

So as Western Christians are we to regard the Eastern churches as not being Christian?

I suppose we would first have to answer my question before we could even address this subject. What defines a Christian? One thing I know. A Christian is not defined by physical association with a church that is historically associated with the Christian faith.

C. Wingate suggested that Mormons are not Christians. I ask by what standard he made that determination, and I receive only silence. So I will hazard a guess. Perhaps someone will tell me the definition is formal assent to the words of the Nicene Creed. Then I will produce a Mormon who believes it every bit as much as many liberals who pay it lip service. What then? Have we demonstrated that the Creed must have some formal definitions attached to its words before it can function as a basis of unity? Or have we demonstrated that the exclusion of Mormonism is arbitrary?

Liberals flee from this question because they have no good answer to it. And yet they try to enforce some boundary without actually being able to define it. The boundary must be porous enough to allow for their continuing innovations but narrow enough to avoid a complete submergence into relativism. It's a tough line to walk. That's why I ask about it. Over and over and over again.


carl jacobs said...

Father Ron Smith

I suppose if I were a Liberal, I would find your last post convincing. As it stands, it is nothing more than an assertion that I should abandon conservative presuppositions and act on liberal presuppositions instead. The post is simply filled to the brim with assumptions I flatly reject. Not the least of which is this:

The Bible, after all, is a creature of its own day and age - with some lack of insights on the realities of human biological factors that are now available through science and research.

I deny the truth of every assertion in that sentence. And even if I assume it is true for the sake of argument, then I am forced to ask "What do we know of God and how do we know it?" I for one will not accept the moral authority of a bunch of self-identified Progressives who presume to establish their authority by virtue of their self-proclaimed enlightened progressive opinions. If that is not the source of your authority, then please tell me what is.

Spell out your standard. How do you know good from evil? How do you know truth from falsehood? How do you know right from wrong? How do you know true God from false god? How do you know what God requires of you? There are no scientific answers to these questions. Reason cannot apprehend them for reason is simply a mechanism that applies presuppositions, and only true religion can supply the correct presuppositions. The answers must be revealed to men or there are no answers.

So what is your revealed standard?


Lucy said...

Carl is asking some important questions - how do we know...?

A related question - the notion of 'a different gospel' (also mentioned by the newly famous Carl) has generated a bit of heat ... so for those of you who are in a tropical mood, what do you think Paul meant when he used the term? What criteria did he use to differentiate between 'his' gospel and a 'different' gospel (which was really 'no' gospel)? How did he decide when someone was trying to 'pervert' the gospel? What were his standards, boundaries ... it certainly wasn't a matter of indifference to him, his reaction was more substantial than 'mild toleration'; he wished eternal damnation on the preachers, I think Carl stopped way short of that.
Lucy Eban

Peter Carrell said...

Here is a comment, Lucy, on one aspect of what you are raising:

I agree with Paul that there is the true 'his' gospel and a 'different' gospel, and the latter is deadly - thus we may pronounce anathema on those who preach it.

Where I try to be slow to judge is when a fellow Christian preaches the gospel. Is it 'his' gospel or a 'different' gospel? How do I know the difference? Just because a presentation of the gospel is not the same as the presentation I am used to, is it (therefore) a 'different' gospel? Or the same gospel presented differently? (Think John, Matthew, Mark and Luke? And Paul, the writer to the Hebrews and the seer of Revelation).

On this site I often wonder if we are less appeciative of the ways in which the same gospel of life may be presented in different ways without becoming a 'different' gospel.

There is much to ponder ...

Lucy said...

mmm Peter I'm all for being nice to folk, in fact I think it's a greatly underrated gift... and all for appreciating and celebrating difference... but (there was bound to be one of those)Paul got pretty upset when he saw people getting confused by the preaching of a perverted gospel. Confusion is not something the Anglican Communion is short of just now, so perhaps the idea of 'false' 'different' 'perverted' gospels needs some consideration??

Lucy Eban

Peter Carrell said...

We certainly need good discernment in the Communion, Lucy, including discerning whether or not some of our confusion is unnecessary talking past each other kind of confusion or not.

Lucy said...

Peter I won't keep harping on (after this harp!)

Carl raised the issues of 'another gospel' / 'heresy etc. You have raised the possibility of pronouncing anathema on those who preach a deadly gospel but have emphasized the importance of listening to one another respectfully.

How does one distinguish between the gospel proclaimed by the leaders of GAFCON (for example) and the one proclaimed by the leaders of TEC (for example)- I don't see how it is possible to accept them both as the true gospel. Surely that is an important issue considering the task of the church is to preach the gospel.

Father Ron Smith said...

Well, Lucy, you've said a lot here about what YOU consider to be the 'true' and the 'false' Gospel. Can you spell it out to us a little more fully. I, for one, don't really see the cause of your confusion. There is, after all, only one Gospel - that is the gospel of O.L.J.C., who has given his life for sinners - and that's every one of us. That, in a nutshell, is The Gospel: The Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who came into this world 'to save sinners' - that's you and me.

Brother David said...

How Lucy, are folks in TEC teaching a different Gospel to that of any other province in the Anglican Communion?

Lucy said...

well David some say they are. In particular they (I'm thinking here of Dr Jim Packer and others who share his views)would say that the Gospel requires us to repent of sin and live transformed lives. They take issue with the position of TEC in regards to same sex relationships. Packer has gone so far as to label that position 'heretical'.

Carl initially raised the 'which gospel' issue. I think that it is clear that more than one gospel is being preached:
1: repent and change your life.
2: You don't need to repent. this is a holy, God-pleasing life.

I don't see much congruence here.

sorry, written in haste - hope that answers your question Fr Ron

hey Carl - where are you??
Lucy Eban

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Lucy,
If the distinction between one gospel and another were as black and white as (A) 'Jesus saves' and (B) 'Jesus, tithing and abstaining from alcohol saves', then I would have no problem pronouncing the latter to be anathema.

The difficulty with talking about "GAFCON's gospel" or "TEC's gospel" is that one is talking about broad directions, general tendencies and the like. While one might offer critique of such directions and tendencies, should one condemn (or commend) them outright, givent that they are perceived directions and tendencies, often created by the way events and speeches have been reported?

What I personally take care over is the rush to judgement on the basis of headlines or single sentence quotations.

carl jacobs said...


hey Carl - where are you??

I live in the United States. I am offset from New Zealand by 17 hours I think. It's 9:40 pm as I post this.


Lucy said...

'What I personally take care over is the rush to judgement on the basis of headlines or single sentence quotations.'

Peter we all respect that particular attribute in you.

you're not suggesting are you that Packer, Short and many many others have made the statements they have made and taken the actions they have based on 'headlines'?

Perhaps you are suggesting that I only read at headline level (I grant you, that's not such a serious accusation as the former ... but for all its lightweight significance it's still not acurate).

I'm not at all convinced that 'one is talking about broad directions, general tendencies and the like'. There have been very substantial statements made and actions taken over the last few years by men and women on both sides of the 'debate' which have resulted in a fragmented, divided communion. It seems that underpinning all these events and all the rhetoric is what John Stott described as a 'crisis of authority' ... exactly where does the church, and individuals within it, get its/their authority to live and teach as it/they does.

Lucy Eban

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Lucy,
Yes, there are specific instances when the Packers and Shorts of the Communion are engaged with specific, locateable statements, policies by (e.g.) their local bishop.

In that particular situation there is quite a lot of documented evidence of statements and policies.

In respect of TEC I find it hard to pin down just what ++KJS believes which is not only objectionable but worthy of pronouncing anathema. What I think is objectionable in what I have read and heard (I heard her preach in NZ last year) is no more objectionable than lots of things other bishops have said over the years of my life, including bishops here in NZ ... I have made a call that these statements lie within a range of understanding within the Anglican Communion which is not worth leaving over, nor of such magnitude that I should be pronouncing anathemas.

There are other statements made by Anglican leaders which are objectionable and worth pronouncing anathema, e.g. the writings of Spong: I have here fairly consistently voiced my opposition to those writings.

Father Ron Smith said...

To all who believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Redeemer of ALL:
Pax et Bonum!