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.
A 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.