Response To: "Internet Boon or Bane?"
The above title appears on an article written by Gary Ogden and published on July 16, 2000 in THE PLANT CITY PLANTER, the regular bulletin of the church in Plant City, Florida. I am deeply concerned with both the tone of this article and with what I consider to be the tremendous danger it poses to those who would keep an open and receptive heart to search the scriptures daily with a noble heart (Acts 17: 11). I will reproduce brother Ogden¹s article in its entirety and then my response to it will follow. It is my desire that brother Ogden and the elders at Plant City will carefully read both of them with an open and receptive heart and with a sincere determination to believe and teach only that which God has revealed in His Word. I can assure you that such is my only desire.
"And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear..." (Mark 4:24). "Take care what you listen to" (NASB.) "Consider carefully what you hear," (NIV).
"Take heed therefore how ye hear" (Luke 8:18, KJV). "Therefore take care how you listen;" (NASB). "Therefore consider carefully how you listen" (NIV).
With these words of Jesus before us, I have some things to say regarding the Internet. Even if you don't have a computer, please continue reading, for what's happening is affecting or will affect us all eventually.
Some of my brethren are waging an "unholy war" on the Internet! Under the guise of "upholding the truth" some of my brethren are resorting to tactics that are inappropriate, unholy, unbrotherly.
First of all, private correspondence between brethren is no longer private. Some who take issue with what a brother believes on a particular subject, rather than writing to him personally, calling him on the phone or arranging a meeting with him, they e-mail a long treatise to him, AND convinced that everyone who has a computer needs to read what he has written to this brother, sends it to all the people on his address list. Then several of those people send it to those on their list, who sent it to those one (sic) their list, who send it... Meanwhile, if the brother answers the questions posed in the first treatise, his answers are not likely to make the rounds, and his view is not fully presented. People make judgments about a brother or his position without fully hearing him out.
Since when did "private correspondence" become public domain just because the Internet facilitated access to information? What ever happened to common courtesy, common decency, good behavior? If I wrote you a regular letter detailing some personal matters meant only for your eyes, would you feel free to go get it xeroxed and mail it to numerous of your acquaintances who in turn would mail it to their friends? Why does having email make this practice okay?
Now, you receive a one-sided treatise on the teaching or practice of a brother, what will you do with it? Will you reach an immediate conclusion that what has been written to you is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth without having heard what the other has to say? What if, the brother decides NOT to respond via computer, does that mean he believes or practices what he has been reported of him, or that he is not willing to defend his position?
What if, because of the voracious appetite for fighting and wrangling of some brothers someone decides NOT to engage in the same, does that mean that he is unsound, unholy, weak, not willing to uphold the truth?
Let me ask this: Did Jesus ALWAYS answer His detractors? When they said he was crazy, what did He answer in return? (Mark 3: 21). I think you'll find in that case, He just went on about his business. Then, when He did that, they wouldn't let it go. They said He did his work by the Prince of demons. With Jesus, no matter what He said or did, they ridiculed, beat Him up, crucified Him.
When He stood before Pilate, He answered some questions, some charges, and on some He kept silent, to Pilate's amazement. Jesus didn't always answer His detractors because it wouldn't do any good. If He answered, they twisted His speech. If He didn't answer, it didn't help. They crucified Him regardless.
Some of his disciples, my brethren, get "crucified" over the Internet. If they try to answer the critics, the critics pull out their giant magnifying glasses, check every syllable, every jot and tittle, then write back long tomes on how the response was inadequate, inappropriate and unacceptable.
If a brother decides not to answer back, he is labeled a softy, not willing to fight, to stand up for what he believes. He gets raked no matter what he decides to do. The tirades fly over the Internet to any and all who will read. As for me, I've started deleting before reading. If you send a note that you don't want to receive such unsolicited material, you get accused of not loving truth. So be it. I'm glad Lord is the Judge.
I can't do anything about what's happening over the Internet. I can't control what you read in the privacy of your home. Wouldn't want to try. If you choose, you can go to sites that are unwholesome, ungodly, unholy. While there are a myriad of useful and wonderful sites on the Internet, it has it's dark side. I plead with you, don't go there!
I also exhort you, "Be careful what and how you hear. Not everything you read on the Internet is the truth, even if (sic) is written by a brother in Christ. It is possible to slander a brother with the touch of a "Send" button. As happened to the apostle Paul, it can happen today. Some were slanderously spreading that he believed that "we should do evil that good may come" (Romans 3:8). Some twisted what he taught and accused him of being false. Some uncareful brethren were listening to and believing the slanderous reports, and spreading them. If it could happen back then, it can happen now. Do you want to be guilty of slander?
Please be careful, very careful. The Internet; boon or blessing? Depends on how you use it. Use the Bible more; the Internet less. Truth will make you free, indeed!
The enclosed article by brother Gary Ogden was reproduced on a copying machine from the Plant City church bulletin and mailed "anonymously" to someone in our family. The postmark was Ashville, North Carolina. There was no return address.
I am not greatly disturbed that someone would mail it anonymously, but I am very much disturbed by the tone and content of the article. This is published material, public information, and I trust that brother Ogden will not take offense with the fact that I have decided to review what he has written, signed his name to, and published in the church bulletin. I am sending this response to him and also to the elders of the Plant City church since the article appeared in the bulletin of that congregation. My sincere desire is to request of both brother Ogden and the elders to soberly consider some of the serious accusations made in this article.
I have no axe to grind with the brethren of the Plant City church. There are several of our family relatives who are members of this congregation. I trust that you will receive these thoughts with love and respect - God knows that I desire to give them with that attitude.
The terms boon and bane refer to that which is beneficial or that which is hurtful or harmful. The question apparently under consideration is whether the use of the internet by brethren is going to be beneficial or whether it will be harmful. There are a great many things on the internet, but it is clearly evident that this discussion by brother Ogden pertains to brethren discussing spiritual matters with one another on internet email or brethren using the internet to teach or learn spiritual matters from web sites operated by brethren.
The internet is certainly a medium for exchange of information, just as is the case for the U.S. mail, the telephone, the pulpit, religious tracts, a religious paper published by brethren, or even a church bulletin. There has never been any doubt in any of our minds that any and all of these mediums of information exchange can be used in either a beneficial or a harmful manner. Our brother appears to have a particular problem regarding the internet, and we want to look very closely at his examination of such from the standpoint of brethren relating to one another.
The bulletin article proposes to use the "words of Jesus before us" (Mark 4: 24, Luke 8: 18) for us to reflect upon as he has "some things to say regarding the Internet". It might have been well if the entire context of these scriptures could have been given. Please consider each one of them very carefully: (Mark 4: 21-25 ASV), "And he said unto them, Is the lamp brought to be put under the bushel, or under the bed, and not to be put on the stand? For there is nothing hid, save that it should be manifested; neither was anything made secret, but that it should come to light. If any man hath ears to hear, let him hear. And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete it shall be measured unto you; and more shall be given unto you. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath." (Luke 8: 16-18 ASV), "And no man, when he hath lighted a lamp, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but putteth it on a stand, that they that enter in may see the light. For nothing is hid, that shall not be made manifest; nor anything secret, that shall not be known and come to light. Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he thinketh he hath."
Yes indeed, we had better take heed to what we hear and how we hear because the lamp of God's Word is not to be put "under the bushel" or "under the bed", or to "covereth it with a vessel", and the very reason being, "For nothing is hid, that shall not be made manifest; nor anything secret, that shall not be known and come to light." The Word of God is ALWAYS put out on the stand, in open view, so that the light can shine and be seen! This is also true for the Christian as related in Matthew 5: 15-16, "Neither do men light a lamp, and put it under the bushel, but on the stand; and it shineth unto all that are in the house. Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
It would also be good, in this discussion, for us to recall the words of John 3: 19-21, "And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, lest his works should be reproved. But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, that they have been wrought in God."
I sincerely request that we keep every word of these scriptures "before us" as we consider these stated views regarding the internet. I sincerely believe that some "light"² needs to shine on some of the comments in this bulletin article.
Our brother now continues to make the charge that "some of my brethren are waging an unholy war on the internet." Now, brother Ogden, that is a mighty serious charge, isn't it? You didn't bother to name any of those brethren who are engaged in this "unholy war", but you seem to feel that it is important enough that you must warn those who read your church bulletin that "some of my brethren" are the ones who are guilty. Now they must be doing terrible things because you say that they are using the "guise" of "upholding the truth". According to the dictionary, that word "guise" can mean false appearance or pretense. So, are you saying that these brethren are deceitfully appearing or pretending to uphold the Truth? They are alleged to be "pretending" to uphold the Truth and they are waging an "unholy war", and you apparently want to warn us about them - but you forgot to tell us who they are or where they are on the internet! Did you just accidentally overlook that, or is it possible that you are making a diligent effort to simply prejudice the minds of your readers? I am persuaded that you need to think very soberly about the answer to that question.
If Dennis L. Reed is one of those fellows you happen to be describing, I certainly wish that you would have identified him and also warned brethren about the sin or error of which he is guilty! I am aware that he has written articles for the internet site of Watchman Magazine and he has also joined other brethren in signing an open letter about the days of creation which appears on both Watchman Magazine and the Gospel Anchor (http://www.gospelanchor.com) internet sites.
If he is engaged in pretending to uphold the Truth and is involved in an unholy war, it seems to me that brethren ought to know that about him. And it also seems to me that they ought to be busy trying to help him in every way they possibly can. You make that accusation about some of your brethren, but we are seemingly helpless to assist them because you are unwilling to tell us who they are! Now be serious, brother Ogden, if you know of brethren doing this, why don't you have the courage to expose them and their "unholy war"? Why don't you put the Word of God out on the stand and let it shine directly on them? But in place of doing just that, it seems rather obvious to me that you are satisfied with building a "straw man" which you intend to beat into submission, and then you expect your readers to get caught up in your "perception" of all the evil and ugliness for which you feel that some of your brethren are using the internet. As we continue this response, I think that everyone will be able to see what you really hoped to accomplish with your article.
We will expect to come back to these next concepts several times in our response, but let us start by making it very clear that you have used a medium of information, the church bulletin, to publish, inform, instruct, and advise your readers about "some of my brethren" who are guilty of "waging an unholy war", guilty of "guise (pretending) to uphold the truth", guilty of "resorting to tactics that are inappropriate, unholy, unbrotherly", guilty of making "judgments about a brother or his position without fully hearing him out", guilty of not having "common courtesy, common decency, good behavior", "guilty of making "private correspondence become public domain", guilty of having a "voracious appetite for fighting and wrangling", guilty of causing some of your brethren to "get crucified over the Internet", and guilty of being a part of the "dark side" of the internet, and possibly guilty to "slander a brother with the touch of a Send button"! I may have missed some of your accusations, but I would say that the above would fairly represent what you had to say about these brethren!
Now, brother Ogden, you have made some very serious charges about your own brethren, and yet at the same time you have not given us one "jot or tittle" of evidence of a brother who has done these terrible things, and you certainly have not identified any brethren who are guilty of these things about which you have made accusations! Are we just to "assume" that surely there are these brethren out there on the internet doing these things - because Gary Ogden says that they are out there? Are your readers just to "assume" that since Dennis L. Reed writes on the internet and email, that surely he is the one you are talking about, and that he is the one who is guilty of all of these things? You need to think very seriously about that.
Now you and I both know that what you did in your church bulletin was to create predjuice against brethren who expose error and false teaching through internet web sites and email. You are unwilling to name anyone whom you believe is guilty of your accusations, you are unwilling to name any internet web site that you consider to be the "dark side", and you clearly leave the impression that brethren, whom you are unwilling to name, are using the email on their computers in an "unholy" manner! What is it, brother Ogden that you are seeking to accomplish? You apparently try to "frighten" and "warn" us about these brethren on the internet - while in reality you have simply invented a "straw man" to "beat up" and "crucify" as you would want to say!
May I ask you, is it possible to use a church bulletin, typed and printed from a computer, to do the very same things which you are pointing out that is supposedly being done on the internet? Are you trying to "frighten" and "warn" me about reading the bulletin of the Plant City church? You have used that church bulletin to make some very serious accusations about "some of my brethren" - so should I consider your church bulletin to be the "dark side" of publishing?
And on top of all that, you have to know WHO the brethren are that you are accusing, you have to know WHICH internet sites you consider to be the dark side, but YOU REFUSE TO SAY WHO THEY ARE! You have accused them "anonymously" without giving them the opportunity to answer your charges! It is bad enough to name a brother, make accusations against him, and then not give him a chance to respond - BUT what you do is to make every brother in Christ who uses email and the internet a SUSPECT by your charges! You are content to say that a varmint which smells bad is in the hen house having a feast - but forbid it that you would ever say it is Mr. Skunk! Yet, it seems that you want to leave that implication on some of your "unidentified" brethren! I am genuinely troubled that you would use the church bulletin to make such serious charges without identifying either the brethren involved or the specific sins of which they are supposedly guilty . Is it possible that you were just angry at some of your brethren when you wrote this article and that you chose to vent your feelings toward them "anonymously" in your church bulletin? Please give that some very serious thought.
Well, let me tell you, brother Ogden, I deny your charges, and I am perfectly willing to come to the Plant City church and defend anything that I teach and practice. I have been preaching the gospel for almost fifty years, and I want you to know that I am most grateful to have the internet and email as an additional medium of information for preaching and teaching the Word of God. I will be most happy to come to the Plant City church and defend my conduct on using both the internet and email. Now, please don't come back and say that you didn't mean ME! Would you be willing to write to every brother who uses this medium of information and tell him that you didn't mean HIM? Wouldn't it have been much better to write to the brethren you had in mind and state your accusations to them? Can't you see the really serious problem you have with your "scatter gun" approach?
If you have determined that a brother or several brethren are "unholy", don't you feel a personal responsibility to identify them and let them know that you believe them to be in error? Do these brethren in this "unholy war" know who they are and that you are talking about them? Have you told them? They certainly couldn't know from reading your article that you meant them. If they were publicly teaching or practicing something which is sinful and in error, why didn't you name them and expose their error publicly? Are you just satisfied to sit back and anonymously take "pot shots" with your "scatter gun" at your supposed "unholy" brethren who are out there "somewhere"? I suppose that one of your readers is gladly following your example because they are mailing out your bulletin anonymously! Now, it ought to be very obvious that I don't appreciate your scatter gun approach. In nearly fifty years of preaching, I have never known any of my brethren to even suggest that they didn't know who or what I was talking about. I don't believe that we need to leave such serious matters to one's imagination! And we don't need to put a cloud of suspicion on any of our brethren. If a brother is in sin and error, the Word of God tells us exactly what to do (Galatians 6: 1-2) (II Thessalonians 3:14-15) (Romans 16:17-18).
Now, please return with me to some of the other accusations in your article. You mention that when some try to answer their critics, "the critics pull out their giant magnifying glasses, check every syllable, every jot and tittle, then write back long tomes on how the response was inadequate, inappropriate and unacceptable." Are you saying, brother Ogden, that it is not really important to give careful and close examination to what we believe, teach, practice? Are you saying that our teaching, convictions, and practice should not be open to examination? What else could I believe that you were trying to imply? Have you ever engaged in religious discussion where the opponent of the Truth gave a response which was inadequate, inappropriate, and unacceptable? You also seem to be concerned that the response would be "long tomes". According to the dictionary, a tome is "a book, especially a large or scholarly one". If you were sincerely searching for the Truth, brother Ogden, wouldn't you want access to every ounce of information which would help you to determine the difference between right and wrong, between light and darkness, and between Truth and error?
Are you able to see why I am persuaded that your moaning and groaning is most "inappropriate"? When "men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 17: 30), I can assure you that I will gladly use "giant magnifying glasses" and write as many "tomes" as I can to defend the Truth and to help my brethren avoid being led astray from the faith. Would you ask anything less of me? Could it POSSIBLY BE, brother Ogden, that some of your convictions (or those of your friends) have come under careful scrutiny on either email or the internet - and that you are not pleased with that happening? Now, brother Ogden, I am just asking you to think! Just remember, it doesn¹t do any good to kick the cat if it was the dog who caused you to stumble!
You also continue by saying, "I can't control what you read in the privacy of your home. Wouldn't want to try." Are you really serious when you say that you wouldn't want to try to influence brethren with reference to what they read? I would certainly hope that you wouldn't want to prevent anyone from examining every ounce of evidence when it comes to determining the difference between Truth and error. But, what you say next really troubles me! You say, "I've started deleting before reading." Would you try, brother Ogden, to influence brethren to "delete before reading"? If so, what criteria would you suggest that they use to delete before reading? What criteria do you use? Could it be the name of the sender? Ooops! Can't learn anything from that fellow - you know that fellow - email@example.com - HE is the one who is "waging an unholy war"! HE uses magnifying glasses! HE writes tomes! HE uses guise - pretends to uphold the Truth! HE resorts to tactics that are inappropriate, unholy, unbrotherly"! HE makes judgments about a brother or his position without fully hearing him out! HE doesn't have common courtesy, common decency, good behavior! HE puts private correspondence in the public domain! HE has a voracious appetite for fighting and wrangling! HE crucifies his own brethren on the internet! HE slanders brethren with the send button! He is on the DARK SIDE of the internet!
REALLY? Are you sure that firstname.lastname@example.org is guilty of all that? Yes, by all means I am sure! When you see that name - delete before reading! How do I know that all of this is true? Why, haven't you read the article which was in the bulletin of the Plant City church? And, you are well aware of the fact that Dennis L. Reed uses email, and he writes on the internet sites - SO DELETE BEFORE READING!
Yes, brother Ogden, like the apostle Paul did to himself and Apollos, I have transferred your accusations to myself! I will continue to feel that they are addressed to me until you are willing to tell us who you really believe that these accusations apply to. I will continue to believe that you will want brethren to see email@example.com and delete what he has to say before reading! I will continue to believe that it is the intent of your article to stigmatize certain brethren to your readers so that they too will develop your attitude of deleting before reading! Do you expect them to come around to you and ask you "which email address" they should delete before reading? Tell me, brother Ogden, what criteria do you use?
You continue by saying, "If you choose, you can go to sites that are unwholesome, ungodly, unholy. While there are a myriad of useful and wonderful sites on the Internet, it has it's dark side. I plead with you, don't go there!" Now, remember brother Ogden, the entire context of your article has to do with BRETHREN! You are clearly saying that these are sites operated by brethren! AND, ARE YOU STILL TELLING ME THAT YOU WOULDN'T WANT TO TRY TO CONTROL WHAT BRETHREN READ? And then you say, "DON'T GO THERE!" Are you able to see, brother Ogden, why I am really troubled with your attitude?
Yes, I think you and I both know which sites you consider to be unwholesome, ungodly, and unholy, - but I am going to be specific! I may not get an answer any more than I got the names of those brethren about whom you addressed all the accusations in your article - but I am going to ask! My name appears on material contained in Watchman Magazine and Gospel Anchor - do you consider those web sites to be unwholesome, ungodly, and unholy? Are you willing to name the web sites operated by brethren which you are talking about as being on the "dark side"? If not, then I plead with you to stop writing "scatter gun" articles in the church bulletin which can do as much damage to the cause of the Lord as any brother using email or internet web sites!
Are you able to see the danger to the future of the Lord's church if we were trying to control what people hear from our pulpits, control what they read, and control their communication with brethren who might help them better understand the Word of God? Brother Ogden, have you ever been made to see the Truth by some brother that you might have at one time believed to be in error? Isn't there a terrible danger in being so insecure that we do not want our convictions and teaching open to examination? The serious charges and accusations you make in this bulletin article can serve only to isolate brethren from one another, to cause polarization rather than open examination of issues, develop suspicion in the minds of brethren toward one another, and create an emotional climate which you describe as "WAR"! If we must have war, my brother, I can assure you that my only desire will be to "fight the good fight of the faith" and "lay hold on the life eternal" (I Timothy 6: 12).
You conclude your article by encouraging brethren to "Use the Bible more; the Internet less." I would readily concur with the admonition that we should use the Bible more! We not only are lacking in knowledge of the Bible in our generation, we are also lacking in a respect for the teaching of God's Word and a lack of willingness to stand up and be counted to defend the Truth and expose error! The Bible tells us "and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them; for the things which are done by them in secret it is a shame even to speak of. But all things when they are reproved are made manifest by the light: for everything that is made manifest is light." (Ephesians 5:11-13). We should take advantage of every medium of information which will help us determine the difference between light and darkness - including email and the internet. It is my plea that we will not let anyone discourage us from free and open investigation.
They may be the very ones who want to avoid the light!
Brother Ogden, there are still other statements in your article which I have not replied to in this response, and I will be happy to take up each one of them if you would like for me to do so. My whole purpose is to get you to see the dangers involved in the tone of your article. I sincerely plead with you and the elders at Plant City to always be open to an intense and fair investigation of the Word of God. Thank you for considering my thoughts.
Your brother in the Lord,
Dennis L. Reed
email this author at firstname.lastname@example.org
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