There have always been men who thought Jesus was coming back on a particular day. There have always been men who believed it quite okay to divorce a wife suffering from Alzheimer’s. There have always been pastors who believe that abortion is an option for moms of conjoined twins. There have always been men who believe hell is virtually empty. There have always been men who believe that women should only teach other women about how to love their husbands to be keepers at home. The difference now is that these wrong ideas at least have the potential to reach a world-wide audience. The difference is that the world can then mull over, chew on, and write about the bad ideas others have brought to the watching world.
Like everyone else when Pat Robertson’s abysmal and unbiblical counsel to a husband whose wife suffered from Alzheimer’s hit the news I felt the temptation to jump in. There was blood in the water, and I was just fool enough to confuse my shark instincts with a passion to defend the holiness of marriage. I managed to just take a nibble, confining my comments to a single tweet. I managed to steer clear of Chuck Smith’s abysmal and unbiblical counsel to the young mom carrying conjoined twins. Harold Camping faced my pen, though in a more meta way as I sought to make a subtle point about the difference between false prophecy and bad exegesis. Rob Bell likewise provoked my pen.
That guy who once wrote that women shouldn’t be teaching each other theology, well, that was me. Happily I did respond to that abysmal and unbiblical advice that I gave, confessing (eventually) that I had been wrong. My confession of my error, however, had about one tenth the reach of my mistake. “I was wrong” pieces just don’t have all the appeal of actually being train-wreck wrong.
I suspect that we respond to these blunders less because we are so passionate about defending the future return of Christ, the sanctity of marriage, the sacredness of life, the reality of hell, the liberty of ladies to encourage one another with the whole of the Bible, and more because it is an occasion to make ourselves look better. “Look at what that idiot said. I’m so much smarter, bolder, more faithful, more humble than him.” When the world wide web was first invented it wasn’t called the web, nor the internet, Rather the demons in research and development below labeled it “The Narcissism Machine.” If we are going to succeed in redeeming it, in plundering the Egyptians, we need to understand its nature. It wasn’t invented to propagate the errors of Robertson, Smith, Camping, Bell and Sproul Jr. It was invented to tickle and titillate the egos of everyone logging on. Pornography exists to tell us how desirable we are, beautiful women just throwing themselves at us. Facebook and Twitter exist to tell us how much we are “liked.” And blogs, complete with sundry analytics, tell us how smart and influential we are.
Blistering posts about the other guy will not win this war. Sound theology and its defense will not win this war. It will take stronger stuff… like humility.