Netiquette: Etiquette on the Internet

ArgumentsIt’s always perplexing to me how easily Christians break the Lord’s command to “love one another”—the very command which Jesus said his disciples would be known for and identified. True disciples of Jesus Christ would be known by this, if they love one another (John 13:35). But humans as we are, we seem to always default to offending other people whether inside or outside of the church, intentionally or unintentionally, whether online or offline.

Learning Netiquette

Just take for example when you visit blogs or other social networks like Facebook. Haven’t they heard about netiquette? A person would express his thoughts on a certain religious or doctrinal topic and other friends would join the discussion to also express their views on whatever is the topic under discussion. But I am always perplexed that in many of these discussions, it leads to name calling, derogatory remarks, character assassination and the like. Why is this so? Well, I guess religion, like politics, is one of those hot topics.

Pinoy Culture?

arguments

The situation is even aggravated in our Philippine cultural context because most of us, take it personally when a negative comment is made about our views. We Pinoys feel insulted and so we retaliate with smart aleck remarks to outsmart the other guy. I think that we should all learn to discuss purely issues without taking it personally. As the saying goes, “walang personalan.” Let’s just discuss issues in a civil manner. This is something we should all learn as Pinoy Christians. Of course, we can discern if a person is really making rude remarks against us but may I suggest that we remain calm, humble and not retaliate—“an eye for an eye”—but rather remain a true Christian all the way. We don’t need to go down to their level of rudeness and ungodly conduct.

Knowledge Puffs Up

opinionIt would seem to me that it does really take time to learn how to express our views without putting down the other person. Somehow we take pride in putting shame and to belittle the other person and his beliefs. Without realizing it, we take pride in our superior knowledge and look down on those who seem not to know “the truth.” Knowledge truly “puffs up.” “But love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1)—a good verse to meditate on.

Speak the Truth in Love

Why can’t we express our beliefs on a matter without putting down the other person? Christians? Yes we believe we are Christians but hopefully we are all growing in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ being considerate and careful of our words even as we express our agreement or disagreement on any matter.

Communication Skills

As we interact with people on the internet, it is easy to be misunderstood because we don’t see the person eyeball to eyeball and see their facial or bodily expressions. Those who are new on the internet always make this big blunder. They always do! They should learn some rules of civility on the internet—netiquette—and avoid creating confusion, discord and animosity. Visit this link and learn.

As it has been said before, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, but at all times charity (meaning, love).” Let us learn to agree or disagree on any topic under discussion but let’s not do it in a disagreeable manner. Let us learn to love one another as Christians. Whether online or offline, let us all follow the Lord’s command though our views may differ from one another.

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Misunderstanding Scripture: What’s the Point?

Learning effective communication skills is always a plus. Being misunderstood is a common thing and it’s amazingly and  especially true when it comes to biblical and doctrinal discussions. Doctrinal misunderstanding can develop into heated arguments without end. It always does. And it shows people’s character in the midst of a heated debate.

Is there a way to better understand what the Bible is saying? Yes, there is a simple way. In understanding Scripture, it is always important to understand the main point of a passage or text under discussion. Always ask, “What’s the point?” That is very important in biblical interpretation as well as in our daily conversations. Getting the point will help remove a lot of misunderstanding and confusion.

Misinterpreting Scripture

Without realizing it, a lot of people misinterpret Scripture. They think that their views on the Bible are exactly God’s views. They think they have the mind of God and that their interpretation of the Bible is the only accurate one. This is fine as long as their views are really what God is truly saying in the Bible.

But oftentimes, we think that our perception, our understanding, our interpretation, our view on the matter, is the only correct interpretation of the Bible. We think that our view is what God is really saying in the Bible and all the others are wrong.

Hermeneutics

It is good to study something about biblical interpretation. The scholarly world calls it, Hermeneutics. It can intimidate some simple folks like us but Hermeneutics simply means the study of biblical interpretation. It is good to know that there are some basic principles to understand and consider when interpreting the Bible. Lacking this “tool”—without this knowledge and skill on how to properly interpret Scripture—some people come up with their own heretical ideas and “out-of-this-world” doctrines leading them to wrong beliefs and practices.

The Bible is a book composed of many books with different contexts, different authors, different literary backgrounds—poem, song, history, letter, etc. It also has different historical backgrounds, different cultural backgrounds, different eras spanning over a thousand years, written in several languages and grammatical construction, different purposes why a book was written, different audiences to whom the literature was written, and more!

Eisegesis

Reading into the Bible what is not there—your personal opinions, thoughts and ideas—interpreting the Bible without considering its various contexts is the reason why we have all kinds of conflicting religions and ideologies.

Exegesis

Interpreting the Bible considering all its various contexts (literary, historical, grammatical, cultural, geographical, etc.) is the right approach to understanding what God’s will really is in the Bible. Learning about Hermeneutics can be a great tool and help in our study of the Bible. There’s no harm in using this tool especially for would-be pastors, teachers, biblical interpreters and theologians.

Jesus Interprets Scripture

And the most important context that we should put into our every interpretation of Scripture is this: Jesus Christ. All our interpretation should have a center on Jesus Christ. He is the criterion and the basis for all our interpretation of Scripture. Jesus Christ should be our “lens.” We interpret Scripture in the light of who Jesus Christ is. This is always the correct way to interpret Scripture. Jesus said all Scripture points to him and is all about him. Jesus Christ who is the Living Word interprets for us the Written Word, the Bible. All our biblical interpretation should center on Jesus Christ not on ourselves and our own experience. Our Bible interpretations should be Christ-centered and not man-centered.

Thankfully, the Lord Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth (John 16:13). He will not leave us to grope in the dark as to what the Lord’s will really is. He will in his own good time, correct our misunderstanding, correct our erroneous view. Now that I’m a bit older, I have found it wiser to be more tolerant about other people’s views and to follow the traditional advice regarding one’s theological stand: “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. But at all times charity (love).”

And so, what’s the point? Don’t forget to always ask that question when reading Scripture. It will help you understand the Bible better—hopefully.

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The Problem is Spiritual

Have you heard about the speech of Gen. Douglas MacArthur? I came across this speech some 38 years ago when I was still a teenager. This was his speech before the US Congress sometime in 1951. I was not even born yet. I was really amazed that a great general who was most knowledgeable in the art of war, could pinpoint the solution to man’s great problems.

Here’s a portion of that speech:

  • “Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. Various methods through the ages have been attempted to devise an international process to prevent or settle disputes between nations. From the very start workable methods were found in so far as individual citizens were concerned, but the mechanics of an instrumentality of larger international scope have never been successful.
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  • Military alliances, balances of power, Leagues of Nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door.
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  • The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature, and all material and cultural developments of the past 2000 years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.”

I’m still amazed up to now that this great general had great wisdom to see that man’s problems are “theological”—that is, “spiritual” in nature and “it must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.” The problem is really in man’s character—a problem of the heart, the inner man—which needs a lot of re-aligning and changing to conform to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.