Theological Musings

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Comments on the Comments

First of all, let me say that it's nice to be back from vacation. While I did have some access to the internet while I was away with my wife and son, I chose to severely limit the time I spent online -- hence no major posting or commenting. I now have several hundred posts in Bloglines to sift through, but oh well!

It was really interesting to see the wide range of comments on my recent posts. Several picked up on my brief comment about no longer being a dispensational, pre-tribulationalist and voiced their agreement (or disagreement, if you're Gordon Cloud! hehe). Others refrained from commenting on the position itself (my post was not intended to be a defense of any eschatological position) and commented on the idea of "celebrity Christians." Great comments on both of those.

And then.....

One commenter simply copied and pasted an entire post from their own blog as their comment. A simple link would have been sufficient, and would have given my readers the opportunity to visit the other blog if they so desired. But why post a link when you can just copy and paste the entire post?! ;) Not to mention that the lack of any kind of formatting, even in the original post on their site, leads me to believe they might have copied and pasted it from some other blog onto their own.

And there was the self-proclaimed Messiah whose proofs I admittedly did not read in their entirety. All I know is that he was born in the year of the lamb, under the zodiac sign of the lion, making him very unique, as I'm sure there were no other births during that time period... ;)

And there were a couple of anonymous comments which basically just bashed the pre-trib position in general and Tim LaHaye in specific. (A tangential question: Did anyone feel like my post about Tim LaHaye was slanderous or in any other way inappropriate?) And it is those comments which prompt me to ask my own readers for their input.

I have made it clear on a number of threads that I do not delete comments (unless, of course, they are outright spam). If a comment was incredibly offensive (containing profanity, for example), I might consider editing it slightly and reposting it, but that has never even come up. So, I have yet to delete a comment that was anything but a duplicate post or spam.

Obviously, increased readership brings increased comments, but I've noticed that some of these comments are coming from Google searches for the topics discussed. (In other words, it is not technically "increased readership". These are more along the lines of what some bloggers refer to as "drive-by commenting".) For example, I mentioned the pre-trib rapture in another post a while ago (I have no idea which one now), and got a similar anonymous comment about searching Google for certain phrases that are guaranteed to give interesting reading material about the pre-trib rapture position. And now, when I mention it again, the same type of comment shows up, again anonymous.

Should I just delete comments like that? Should I have some guidelines for commenters that give me a basis for deletion? Or is it enough to simply respond with a comment saying that those types of comments are not desired, yet still leave it for the record? Those of you who also have blogs, how do you handle this?

Let me explain my reasoning for not deleting comments, and open it up for discussion, correction, or other viewpoints. Any of you who have read my blog (or comments elsewhere) for any length of time know that part of my philosophy regarding the body of Christ is that people should not set themselves up as "filters" for information. In other words, if we believe that people are filled with the Spirit of God, then we should not feel like we need to "protect" them from information that might counter the Spirit. Rather, we should be helping them learn how to listen to the Spirit themselves so that they can discern.

I base this idea, in part, on the example of the Apostles themselves. For example, Paul wrote to the entire citywide church (i.e., Corinth) regarding heresies that were infiltrating their fellowship. He did not simply tell the leaders to make sure to cover up the heresies and keep it under wraps. He told the entire congregation to test prophecies, etc. Similarly, John wrote to the believers (1 John) telling them to test spirits, etc., and that they didn't need anyone to teach them the things to which he referred. Likewise, the Bereans are spoken of positively in Acts for searching the Scriptures themselves to test what the Apostles were teaching.

In other words, while the elders and leaders certainly should be trying to persuade people of correct doctrine, it is not their job to actually filter the information for the people. I can find no precedent in Scripture for this (please correct me if someone knows of a passage I am missing in my thoughts here). So, if I delete a comment, just because I disagree with it, or because I think it is something that does not need to be propogated (such as self-proclaimed Messiahs or attacks on people), I feel like I would be overstepping my bounds and trying to do the the Spirit's job for Him.

Now, many blogs have "rules of engagement", either written or unwritten, to which commenters must adhere or risk being deleted. On blogs such as those, the anonymous comments about pre-tribbers would not be tolerated. But are those rules actually a hindrance to legitimate dialogue at times? For example, some blogs do not allow anonymous comments. People who comment without certain information revealed (such as name, email address, etc.) are deleted (well, their comments are deleted, not the actual people themselves, to my knowledge!) regardless of the content of the comment. The comment may include very pertinent and truthful information, or may ask legitimate questions, but the "rules" of the blog supercede the content, and so those comments are deleted. That seems to me to be antithetical to other principles that should be at play.

All that to say, I would like some feedback from my readers (even anonymously, if you choose!) with regard to all of this. Are there legitimate reasons (other than those I already mentioned) for deleting comments, thereby filtering some of the discussion? Is it a necessary step for a growing blog? Or is it possible to live differently, even in this world of blogging, and allow more true discussion to take place, even if that discussion is counter to my own thoughts and desires?

Whatever your thoughts, I do so appreciate you regular readers and commenters, and value this particular type of conversation. And for those who comment anonymously (or any of us for that matter), I would appeal to something other than a set of rules that I might come up with on my own. I would appeal to the Spirit of God's own guidelines. May we all demonstrate fruit of His indwelling in our conversation here.

Until next time,

steve :)

17 comment(s):

Steve, good to see you back, buddy. Hope you had a great vacation.

A general rule of thumb that I follow on my blog is that unless the comment contains profanity, obscenity, or excessive personal attacks, I don't delete. Thus far I have never had to go administrative on anyone. That says a lot for my readers.

However, I have never had someone try to write an entire doctoral thesis in the comments section of my blog either. If they did, I would probably be tempted to send it into the hyperspace wormhole.

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Monday, August 07, 2006 2:24:00 PM  

By all means, you should protect those who may be reading your blog. Delete any comment that disagrees with your point of view, or any comment that may cause another person to think for themselves. After all, a popular passage says:

"Since you have the Spirit - and trained pastors hold an authoritative double portion of the Spirit - let those with proper credentials speak, while others listen reverently. But let your hearts be prepared by pious singing before listening. And if an untrained one desires to speak while the proper authority is speaking, let the untrained one keep silent until he is alone with his family or other untrained ones that are like-minded. And if those untrained like-minded ones find their numbers growing, let them dismiss the authoritative speaker and choose another that is more to their liking, and such one will be called by God to speak to them for the proper compensation." (Hesitations 6:7-10)

Thanks,

Alan

p.s. Hopefully, I haven't offended anyone. I do not think you should edit your comments except as Gordon said: "profanity, obscenity, or excessive personal attacks".

By Blogger Alan Knox, at Monday, August 07, 2006 3:21:00 PM  

alan knox...the parody was funny.

Steve, having followed your blog for a year, I think you have done well and should not fix what ain't broken.

By Anonymous ded, at Monday, August 07, 2006 6:31:00 PM  

I don't have the readership that you do, so I have not really encountered this... But, I have a tendency to agree with ded on this...

BTW, nice to have you back!

By Blogger Ray, at Monday, August 07, 2006 7:40:00 PM  

Honestly Steve, I appreciate your 'letting things be' approach. I can filter for myself.

People can think for themselves, they just choose not to and allow others to do it for them.

Still, crap like that long comment about the guy thinking he was the messiah? Delete that, not to 'protect' your readers, but to cause your readers less annoyance. Do you know what a pain it is to scroll past that everytime I wanted to look at the other comments? LOL!

Oh and as far as LaHaye...it is tempting to want to rail against their drivel and misteachings, but honestly, I'm not sure what good it does. I think I mentioned before, the issue of missing out on God's higher calling because we are trying to do damage control all the time.

However, it does make for good blog fodder...

By Blogger Saabinmike, at Tuesday, August 08, 2006 12:33:00 AM  

I don't believe in protecting people...most can filter for themselves or as you say, should be learning how to do so...I do think however, that this is YOUR blog..you can do with it what ever YOU want to...go with your gut and delete as you think appropriate...Mr Messiah should go...lol...
love Alan Knox's little joke..:)
Welcome back!

By Blogger Jada's Gigi, at Tuesday, August 08, 2006 9:40:00 AM  

I had not read the post in question until now. Frankly, it was too long and not very well written. After reading the other comments regarding it, I went back and read it.

Steve, if he is the Messiah, does that make you John the Baptist? After all, he is announcing himself on your blog. ;)

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Tuesday, August 08, 2006 10:22:00 AM  

Thank you all for your responses. I appreciate the common thoughts that have been shared here.

Alan Knox gets extra points for one of the most humorous comments I think this blog has ever seen. In raising questions about Scripture in recent months, I had no intention of the book of Hesitations being quoted authoritatively on this blog!! ;)

Gordon, for a few minutes, I thought you were telling me that my post was written poorly, but I see now that you are referring to Mr. Messiah-wannabe. As to the analogy of me being John the Baptist, I'm not real fond of locusts, but maybe they taste better with honey on them, so I guess I can give it a shot! ;)

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, August 08, 2006 10:31:00 AM  

Steve,

I always use my name to post. It is a form of accountability for me. I am sure I have posted some things I may regret in the future, but generally it forces me to think before I type. Anonymous postings just don't carry much weight. If someone is afraid to attach their name to their belief/opinion, why should I even listen, let alone seriously contemplate?

In the end, it is your blog. We must play by your rules. I have always respected the "no Anonymous" policy - mainly it weeds out trolls. If someone truly wants to use a "pen name", they still can, it just takes a little more work.

By Anonymous Eric Holcombe, at Tuesday, August 08, 2006 11:31:00 AM  

Eric, I appreciate your input on this topic. I think that the one step I might consider taking is not allowing truly anonymous comments. Blogger usernames are free-of-charge, and fairly easy and painless to get (without requiring the user to actually have a blog), and would eliminate that one particular annoying aspect of open comments!

Having said that, I am curious why the pre-trib topic is the only one that appears to attract those types of comments.

Thanks for joining in the conversation.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, August 08, 2006 11:39:00 AM  

saabinmike, I neglected to respond to a comment you made here. My apologies.

First of all, yes the scrolling is annoying! :) And Mr. Not-the-real-Messiah posted the exact same comment on other blogs. So it's obviously a trolling attempt.

Anyway, you said, with regard to topics such as Tim LaHaye's public commentary on the Middle East: However, it does make for good blog fodder...

Quite honestly, I want my readers to tell me when they think something is just "blog fodder". Because if that's all it amounts to in significance, I don't want to post about it. You have a very good point about trying to correct those things, and I definitely want to take that into consideration.

Thanks for your interaction here.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, August 08, 2006 11:43:00 AM  

Yes, Steve, I was most definitely referring to the Messianic comment and not your post. I should have worded that better. Your posts are always well-written and worth reading.

Sorry for the confusion, I was just momentarily distracted by all I had just read. :)

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Tuesday, August 08, 2006 1:00:00 PM  

Steve,

It's your blog, but I think I agree with Eric. Real names give a little more accountability. My only other thought is that on the few web sights that I do visit, when someone posts a "huge" comment, I normally skip it unless it really catches my eye. They'd probably do better to do a shorter post and attach a link to get the rest of the story for anyone interested.

Scott

By Anonymous Scott Huguenin, at Tuesday, August 08, 2006 7:01:00 PM  

Scott, thanks for joining the conversation. Nice to see some new names commenting here.

I agree with you about the long comments. I'll be honest and say that even I as the owner of this blog skimmed over the very lengthy comments that were left.

Extra-long comments seem to be a violation of an unspoken rule of "blog protocol", but Blogger's comment system does not allow for a limit on the length of the comment. That would be a nice feature for them to implement sometime.

Thanks again for your input. I appreciate everyone who has commented.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, August 08, 2006 8:20:00 PM  

Steve,

When I try to view your blog from my normal web page (gmail.com)it freezes, won't respond and freezes everything for me (comes up, but then won't budge). This has been happening for about a week. So, I went into my msn account and was able to access you.

It might just be me -- or not. Thought I would let you know. I always enjoy your posts, and am delighted you had a good vacation with family.

Blessings,
Iris

By Blogger Iris Godfrey, at Thursday, August 10, 2006 10:44:00 AM  

You are not alone with your comments received. I have received both the really long one from Seven Hand I think it was along with the anonymous telling us to Google something. They seem to go to every site that mentions the rapture and post the same things. Regarding the rapture itself, I would disagree with you on when it will happen. I believe that it will be pre-trib but I totally agree with what you have to say about LaHaye and others. They seem more driven by profit rather than by pure motivation to spread the message and prevent others from being "left behind".

By Blogger Brett, at Thursday, August 10, 2006 11:17:00 AM  

Sadly, bro', there are more than a few nutters out there and my feeling (going on my experience as a moderator at BapChat.com) is that sometimes a few things do have to be deleted... but that's probably because I myself am so far out on a limb that most other folks seem to think I'm cutting off the branch I'm sitting on... confused? I am. Grace and peace to you.

By Blogger Pilgrim, at Sunday, August 20, 2006 5:51:00 PM  

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