Blogtalk: Rules of Engagement

What a wonderful world, this blogosphere of ours. Listen to the loud clashing of opinions as the web becomes host to the binaries of print and web, professor and theoblogian, academia and grass roots, EC bloggers and fundie-bloggers . . . cats and dogs. . . ahhhhhh . . . children, let us learn how to play together.

082542982X.01. Scmzzzzzzz -TmA classic study of this clash is Dan Phillip’s blogged book review of Reinventing Jesus on Pyromaniacs, a review more scholarly than my review of the book [but not nearly as much fun], and one that opened a can of fundie which induced [seduced?] the response of one of the book’s authors, J. Ed Komoszewski . . . [dang this is a looooong sentence] who was responding to some bashing of Dr Dan Wallace.

Dan Wallace responded with an article called “My Take on Inerrancy, which, btw, is worth reading. Especially on how he views the difference between evangelicals and fundamentalists. Pyros have declared a 4 week moratorium on the issue but might open it up again.

But it is obvious that the rules of engagement are different in the blogosphere and the classroom. More thought needs to be given here. Anyone can data-mine the internet and find all sorts of “minimal material” to add to a current conversation. And things will get easier in the future when audio becomes searchable by content – think of the first sermons you ever preached that a church secretary has now uploaded to the web, or Bible college papers that have been scanned and uploaded and are now read by your blog-critics. They are good for a laugh and to keep us humble, but introducing them as fodder for current day discussions can be dishonest.

If anyone is collating the bloggers rules of engagement, [Hamo, are you listening?] these rules could be added.

1. Show due respect.

When high-calibre scholars of the non-blogging variety turn up in the blogosphere, give them the respect they deserve. We want them to RETURN. And ENLIGHTEN our pathetic conversations. Don’t make them an errand boys for your intellectual curiosities or a punching-bags for your pet peeves. The world is not as flat as you think. And scholars do not need to respond to your questions, even on their own blogs.

2. Stay on the document or conversation in focus.

If its a book review, stay on the book – which is what Dan Phillips in this scenario attempted to do. Don’t dig up their school reports or playground graffitti or love poems to their spouse and use them as ammunition in an unrelated conversation.

3. Don’t ascribe equal status to minimal material or secondary sources.

– Minimal material is something written to another audience in another context and although may shed light on the current conversation, it should not be treated with equal weight in an acontextual situation.

– Secondary sources are things that others have said about the primary source. Illuminating and sometimes complimentary, but not as trustworthy. A good example is the Rob Bell and his Emergent Cult war going on right now [hi Ken, hope things are well], based on what a reader of Slice said about Rob Bell. That secondary source, which i believe is somewhat unfortunate and mistaken, is now treated as a primary source and treated by commentors as an accurate description of the emergent church. Which it may not be.

4. Give power to the original author.

If an author does not want his or her document published on your site, then respect them and take it down. This happened last year in the FORGE responds to D.A. Carson discussion. A PDF detailing the Australian response to Carson’s critique of the emerging church was re-published by a number of bloggers (including myself) and then taken down at the request of the original publisher. BTW – this process is quicker when bloggers POINT to a document rather than REPOST it on their own site. Pointing to a document gives greater power to the author or the blogger who posts the document.

Also, what I do in my comments is give this power or right to commentors – if they want me to delete something they said, i have always obliged. But i do leave a blank so people know what happened, or those pointing to the deleted post are not made to look stupid.


Hamo: Guidelines for Critiquing the Emerging Church

Steve Camp, musician, master blogger and diligent navigator of blogged arguments, lists his own “Rules of Engagement” on his blog. So do Pyros.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Amdrew says:

    A bit off topic to your comments about blogging, but why, I wonder, does Jesus need to be reinvented? When I see that title, I get visions in my mind of Dr. Frankenstein* working feverishly in his lab on the new “monster.”
    * The Gene Wilder version of Dr. Frankenstein, of course, as “reinvented” by Mel Brooks, because that’s the doctor I prefer

  • agree – not a great title – as i complained in my review of the book.
    and yes – mel brooks version is classic!

  • kent says:

    I am not a prolific blogging type person, I tend to read more that write, but isn’t the goal of blogging to engage in conversation, not arguement? Is the goal to win or to dialogue. I do not see why the rules you have listed aren’t simple common courtesies and common sense.

  • kent says:

    I am not a prolific blogging type person, I tend to read more that write, but isn’t the goal of blogging to engage in conversation, not arguement? Is the goal to win or to dialogue. I do not see why the rules you have listed aren’t simple common courtesies and common sense.

  • Matt Snowden says:

    Thanks for the helpful information. These ideas coupled with basic kindness will help the conversation.

  • AC, I agree that the title is confusing. The authors use “Reinventing Jesus” to descirbe the project of those they are critical of, not as a description of what should be our mission. Maybe a better title would be “Challenging the Reinventors of Jesus.” But the title did make you look! 🙂

  • in my review, i predict they will change the title in 2009 and why.

  • These are some excellent thoughts, Andrew. Thanks for sharing them.
    As for the title of our book, it is indeed meant to be provocative.
    Interestingly, our title is a predecessor to other provocative titles that will soon emerge from major evangelical publishing houses. Look for “Fabricating Jesus” to pop up this winter, followed by “Dethroning Jesus” a year or so later.

  • andrew says:

    thanks. cool.
    I hope that my book on “Re:mixing Jesus” will be released right before your books. If, of course, i can convince Banner of Truth to publish it . . .

  • D’oh! I just realized that my previous comment may have left the wrong impression.
    The titles “Fabricating Jesus” (described at and “Dethroning Jesus” (still early in the writing process) come from the minds of other authors.

  • ahhh . . and my idea for Re:mixing Jesus just came to me as you mentioned those titles.
    i didnt realize you were serious.

  • Alan Hirsch says:

    G’day TSK – this is Hamo – (on Hirschy’s computer – hence the email add)
    Good stuff mate – great wisdom as usual. Onya mate

  • hamo – i am reading frosty’s new book “exiles” and LOVING IT!

  • Ken Silva says:

    Why, hello, and yes things are fine. Thanks for asking. 🙂
    A quick point of clarification since I’m being discussed a bit above. Following the rules of a “trial,” this email is “on the stand” as “a primary source” only as far as it pertains to this particular person’s testimony of what he personally knows. Therefore it is admissable.
    It isn’t intended as a blanket testimony of Rob Bell’s ministry, but it is illustrative of how this person has personally perceived it. As such, it might be something profitable for Bell and others to help realize the effect his teaching has on this person.
    Then taken together with a larger body of first hand source material from Bell’s books and sermons (which is forthcoming) and further personal testimony from people who have read/studied his work, then we get a more complete picture which then can be “treated as [a more] accurate description of the emergent church.”
    You see Andrew, there really is a method to my madness of fatwa. 🙂

  • ken, thanks for that. appreciate your response, your commitment to a pure body of Christ and truth.
    I added the phrase “by commentors” to teh sentence because the problem – and you may not be to blame here – seems to happen in the comments section when people started getting excited and forget that they are actually discussing someones take of how they experience Rob Bell’s ministry . . . and not Rob Bell himself or anything he said.
    i am sure, with your influence under Dr. Walter Martin, that you are as keen to see honesty as well as truth, and keen to be Berean-like in your research.
    may we all be Bereans.
    I would be curious to know, one day, what elements of Rob Bell’s church you believe are “emerging” or “emergent”.

  • Ken Silva says:

    No problem, and thank you for adding the “commentators” part. You are quite right. As a matter of fact right on my work desk is a small plaque entitled “Integrity” which quotes Proverbs 20:7 – “The righteous man walks in his integrity.”
    Here, here, Acts 17:11! Andrew, let me begin by asking you what elements of Rob Bell’s church do you see are not “emerging” or “emergent?”

  • ken,
    i am the wrong one to ask – having never been to MH, never read a rob bell book nor watched the church videos (nooma).
    i have over 60 emerging church books on my shelf but none of robs.
    i have heard good things about his church but it was not described in terms of emerging church or “emergent” principles such as simple structures, flat leadership, etc.
    the ecclesiastical structure may actually jsut be a refinement to the existing model (attractional, seeker sensitive type) but doing it better. dont know.
    but that does not mean it is not a good church. i am just saying that most churches movements i deal with are usually more organic, often do not have sunday services , meet in homes or third spaces and they seek to multiply rather than get bigger.
    maybe one day i will get out there and check it out.
    hey – i am gone on the road now and wont be around to respond for a while
    peace out.

Leave a Reply