on Shelton Smith and the blogosphere

Shelton Smith, the editor of the Sword of the Lord, wrote an editorial regarding the blogosphere here. I don’t know how many people blogged about it, but I first became aware of it here, at paleoevangelical, a post linked by Greg Linscott at Current Christian. Later Bob Bixby unleashed on it over at Pensee’s. Paleo Ben, as I like to call him, linked to Bob’s post by commenting again on paleoevangelical here.

I finally got around to actually reading Smith’s article after all these links and commentary. I have to wonder what all the anxiety is about. Shelton Smith didn’t say that Christians should never have a blog or comment on a blog. What he said is that Christians should be responsible when they blog. What is wrong with that? By ranting and raving about Shelton Smith and his call for responsibility, I suspect that the rant is about something else. I wonder if those complaining (especially Bob and Ben) read the same article I did. They certainly got a different impression.

It seems that Bob’s offense with Smith’s words has nothing to do with what Smith actually said. It has to do with fundamentalist politics in general and in particular with Smith and the SotL’s practice of editing sermons they publish, especially Spurgeon’s sermons. They have a tendency to edit out the more Calvinistic bits. Well… I suppose that is true. What does it have to do with the content of Smith’s editorial? What, specifically, is ‘anti-blog’ about it? The editorial seems to accept that blogs are here to stay (they are until the next fad). It merely suggests that those of us who blog should be careful about what we say and make absolutely certain about the assertions we make.

I know first hand how easy it is to post something that one regrets later. I have done it more than once. The on-line world is self-corrective, they say. Yes it is. But one error can seriously damage an individual and his future ministry. (At least I haven’t gone so far as to damage my ministry — that I know of, anyway!) Surely Smith’s call for caution is well worth heeding. And it is well worth reading as well. Go over and have a look. Compare it to the reaction. Don’t you agree that those reacting are over-reacting?

Is the Sword the absolutely best periodical in fundamentalism? Maybe not. But the reactions to the editorial were weird. They had nothing to do with what was said and everything to do with an axe that keeps getting ground at certain blogs. Methinks those protesting protest too much and become an example of what Smith was editorializing about. From a knee jerk antagonistic reaction to Smith and the SotL, the invective becomes a rant against the whole of fundamentalism, caricaturizing it in a way consistent with the blogs involved, but not consistent with the reality I have experienced.

These are bro. Smith’s recommendations for the blogosphere. They are well worth heeding:

1. I’m all for free speech! Our First Amendment freedoms have come at great cost, and they are precious!

But Christians (of all people) should use their freedoms responsibly. Opinions, rumors, etc., should be checked, rechecked and fully certified before being repeated or published. …

2. Scandals (even Christian ones) should be exposed! If and when there are issues of scandal, the scoundrels should expect to get some bad press. But the blogosphere so often has no journalistic credibility whatsoever. It often is “my thoughts” and “your thoughts” which are given with no other purpose than to smear good people. …

3. Gossip is not a Christian activity! Even if you do it with a computer, it is not right! The fact that you have your own blog does not give you scriptural license to peddle gossip. …

4. Christian integrity demands accountability of all of us. Don’t open your mouth unless you’ve done your homework and know for sure whereof you speak.

5. It is neither faithful nor fruitful, neither pious nor prudent to tell everything you know—even if it is true! Some things serve no public good by being spoken. …

6. Some things are issues of sufficient public interest and for the public good that they must be reported. But even then, it should be done in a responsible manner. Facts must be checked and rechecked. Primary sources must be consulted. Be accountable for your actions. Sign your name to whatever you say or write.

7. Christians ought to be Christian! As I review the Christian blogosphere, I see a lot that doesn’t look certifiably Christian to me.

All Christian bloggers would do well to abide by these recommendations. In particular, the question we should ask is this, “Is it necessary?” Perhaps it would reduce our output, especially posts such as this one that holds others up to criticism. The temptation is to simply let fly. Better to wait. Think it through, and ask God’s guidance.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3


  1. Ed Groover says:

    Bro. Don,

    Two things, as I see it. First, they were both using Smith’s article as an occasion to make other points, not critiquing the article itself. Second, they were objecting to the person who was chiding everyone else when he and his publication are guilty of the very things for which he chides the blogosphere. Where is his journalistic credibility? (He is a lesser successor to greater predecessors, imo.) Where is his accountability? He and the Sword have also violated most of the rest of the points you list. I think they object to being pontificated to by one who does the very things against which he rails.

    The points made in the article are good points. But the messenger ruins the message in this case.

  2. Don Johnson says:

    I suppose the credibility of the SotL is a matter of opinion. As I say, I haven’t looked at it for some time, so make no comment with respect to that.

    My objection to the posts in question is that they write as if Smith’s editorial is off the wall, yet it is nothing of the kind. The blogosphere is indeed mostly useless, with very few exceptions.

    A critique that isn’t a critique is a non sequitur. It does not follow.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  3. Jerry Bouey says:

    Bro. Don, I appreciate the article, regardless of what others may think of TSOTL. Yes, too many are not accountable for what they blog – much of it is either junk, not sound Biblically, not edifying, though every once in while you might come across an excellent blog or post.

    Another thing bloggers should be accountable for is who they link to, or quote. Either they don’t care that they are endorsing heretics or those with watered-down theology, or they really have no clue what effect their endorsement could have. Sure, they may like a questionable blog that they read carefully with discernment, but their linking causes others to think that blog is good – therefore resulting in the spread of unsound theology. Just a pet peeve of mine.

    P.S. I wanted to add, I really appreciate your sermon outlines. I have been reading a bunch of them, and find them worthwhile to study out – sort of like a commentary with applications. Food for thought. Thank you.

  4. Don Johnson says:

    thanks for the comment Jerry.

    Some fellows are providing links as a “religion news” type of service. I don’t mind that so much. The links to men who are no friends of fundamentalism as if they are mighty men of God is disappointing.

    As for my outlines, I have fallen off lately on publishing them. I am also creating a study guide for our people at the same time and trying to finish a renovation job on a duplex I own. (One more day on the reno and two more study guides to go!) This has put a good deal of pressure on the sermon outline business. A few of them have been composed in the wee hours and have preached much better than they read. I hope to go back and get them in better shape in May or June, and do plan to get caught up on the whole set by then.

    A few years ago, back when I was using a ‘floppy only’ computer, I had my sermon disappear before my eyes because I didn’t print it at a critical point. It was late at night so I decided to pull out an old sermon and preach it again. As I looked at my old handwritten notes, I realized then that I needed to make better notes or my old ones would be no good, so now I try to write as detailed an outline as possible.

    I am glad to hear that they have been a blessing to you. I expect you will find that there will be some things where we don’t see eye to eye, but we wouldn’t be Baptists if that weren’t true, eh?

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3