I have been chipping away at this post for two weeks. And in reality I have been thinking about it for far longer than that. And yet what I bring you today is really quite pathetic. I have been unable to formulate clear, biblical wisdom on this topic. And so I am going to present it to you regardless, hoping that your input and discussion will be able to make plain what is still cloudy.
I often receive questions from readers of this site which hint at a question that has often troubled me and caused me to think or to search the Scriptures. I have seen this same question crop up occasionally at other blogs as well. The question deals with the nature of blogging. What is blogging? Of the various types of communication we experience in the world, how does blogging compare? Is it teaching? Is it simple discussion? Is it analogous to a preacher standing in a pulpit or could it be analogous to a few friends standing around a water cooler? What biblical guidelines should we adhere to when we write blogs and when we read blogs?
I think this is an important topic for Christians to consider. I think our understanding of this topic will inform our behavior in terms of topics we write about, the way we write and the way we respond to what others write. One important way this will manifest itself is in the relationship of men to women, and this is an area I will focus on today, simply because it is the area I have thought about most.
I have found it helpful to think of blogging within the spectrum of communication we experience in fellowship on one hand or in reading a book on the other (perhaps because fellowship and reading are two of my favorite things to do).
On one end of the spectrum we have books. Books are a rather impersonal form of communication, but a form that carries a good deal of credibility. We assume when we read a book that it has passed through several levels of editing and that what is presented to us within the book is well-researched, measured and verified. Books convey an air of authority (though of course true authority in matters of the faith is granted by Scripture and by faithfulness to Scripture) but are also reasonably simple to disagree with because we generally have no access to the author. I can examine a statement an author makes and easily agree or disagree with it without fear of offense.
I don’t know of any man who would object to his wife reading a good book on the basis that she will be learning from a man other than her husband. She may even be corrected by a man other than her husband by reading such a book, as he may bring Scripture to bear on areas in which she has been unfaithful to Scripture. Also, I do not know of too many men who would refuse to read a book written by a woman on the basis that in so-doing he would be learning from a woman, though this may depend on the nature of the topic she discusses. In general, books are impersonal but authoritative means of learning.
At the other end of the spectrum we have personal fellowship. This may be as simple as two or more Christians speaking to each other face-to-face. There are certain biblical standards that many Christians adhere to in such circumstances. Defending each of these is outside the scope of this article, so I will merely provide some examples that I feel are quite typical. For example, I do not feel it is appropriate for a man to correct the theology of another man’s wife. This may serve to undermine the authority of the husband, for it is the task of a husband to guide and teach his wife as she searches the Scripture. It may also cause offense, for long (and occasionally painful) experience has shown me that men and women relate far differently and this type of situation can lead to needless pain and offense (by which I mean to say that the woman inevitably ends up in tears and the man inevitably ends up looking and feeling like a chump). If a man sees behavior in a woman that needs to be corrected, he should approach not the woman, but her husband. The husband then bears the privilege and responsibility of addressing the problem with his wife. Much of our fellowship is guided by simple and clear biblical wisdom relating to how men and women ought to relate.
I have found it instructive to think about where blogs fall within this spectrum. Having done so, I believe blogs fall, or ought to fall somewhere in the middle. This may seem like a safe choice, but I believe it allows for important distinctions. It has often caused me to pause and consider whether a particular topic is appropriate for a mode of communication that bears at least some resemblance to fellowship. There have been some topics that I have felt should probably not be addressed in a blog setting. Let me provide an example:
I recently came across a section in a book which I thought would make for interesting discussion, but I decided that I would not post it to my site for I felt that it would not be entirely appropriate to discuss this in such a setting. The potential for discussion arose when I was reading the book A Love That Lasts by Gary and Besty Ricucci (read my review). As we might expect in a book dealing with marriage, one of the chapters dealt with sex. In discussing 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 (the passage which begins: “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband…”), Betsy Ricucci says “There are three clear and inescapable points in this passage. 1) In matters of sexuality, the spouse’s body belongs to the other. 2) Therefore, denying sex to one another is never legitimate. 3) In fact, abstaining from sex should only take place when three conditions are met: you both agree to it, the abstention is temporary, and it’s intended to serve a season in which prayer is particularly emphasized” (146). In other words, and on the basis of an example she provides, fatigue or lack of desire is not a legitimate reason to abstain from sex, even for a single night, for “prayer is the only legitimate reason for abstaining if there is no actual physical hindrance” (147).
Now I think we could have had some interesting discussion about this. Yet as I considered posting it, I thought about whether this would be something I would be comfortable discussing with my female friends face-to-face. I quickly concluded that it was not and thus decided to find something else to right about. I felt that having such a discussion in mixed company may not prove edifying.
In thinking about these things, I reached a few conclusions, but none of them were all that satisfying. And so I invite your input. Is this a topic which Christians should discuss and be aware of? Is it possible that blogs are interfering with God-given patterns of communication and authority? Or am I making something out of nothing here?