Are Public Rebukes Okay? My Advice

Do the rules for church discipline apply to the impersonal, disembodied world of blogging? My answer might surprise you.

What do these six people have in common?

Euodia. Syntyche. Hymanaeus. Alexander. Philetus. Diotrophes.

If you said, “People  in his letters,” then you are correct.

Here’s why I bring this up.

Recently I’ve been listening to a sermon series by John MacArthur called . [Thanks to Nathan Bingham and his  post.]

In the first sermon MacArthur gives a heads up that he’ll specifically name people who are in spiritual error–like Robert Tilton. [This is back in 1991. You remember Tilton and his gold miracle coins?]

MacArthur’s defense amounts to this: What Paul did is now a biblical mandate to call brothers and sisters in Christ to the theological carpet.

But don’t jump the gun.

I strongly believe MacArthur privately approached those who he criticized–whether in person or in letter–before going public. His defense, though, makes me uneasy.

The Unruly Risk of Blogging

There’s a real danger in a world of one-click blogs that people will skip the first two steps of church discipline–a private confrontation followed by a semi-private confrontation with one or two witnesses, as described in –and jump right to the public rebuke.

I’ve made that mistake. Sort of.

In two book reviews I criticized Young’s The Shack and Jason Westerfield’s short autobiography. Part of me wonders if I should have approached each in an email first before launching into an open attack.

But is that reasonable? And do the rules for church discipline apply to the wider church body–to the blogging community–where physical communities and personal relationships don’t exist?

And are book reviews that expose theological error exempt from church discipline steps?

What It All Boils Down To

My answer to the first question is yes, it is reasonable to privately approach those whom we think might have blogged something that could have negative consequences.

For one thing, you’ll get a faster response than you would if you posted and then waited for word to get back to the potential offender. I saw this happen with a  my Abraham Piper.

But should book reviews be exempt? To a degree, yes. A published reply to a published book is legitimate.

However, in truth, it comes back to this: Where is your heart?

Are you looking to draw the spotlight to your corner of the world by exposing the smoking gun? Or are you sincerely concerned with the spiritual welfare of the potential offender…and those who he could influence?

If you’re after self promotion, don’t do it. Back away. Resist that ferocious self-promotion bent blogging caters to and think wisely before you post. In the end, follow the proper church discipline steps–even in the impersonal, disembodied world of blogging.

Christ–not you–gets the glory when you do that.

Now, tell me what you think. Am I close? Or off base? I look forward to your thoughts. Brutal and all.

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