Friday, May 17, 2013

Are You Obeying the Ninth Commandment in the Blogosphere?

When blogging, as in all of life, we need to consider the inspired dictates about the tongue recorded in James 3:1-12:

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

Whatever we post online is available to the entire world, and often is permanent and irrevocably made available.  Let us be sure in our blogging and commenting, as in all the rest of our lives, that we are glorifying God with our tongues, and only stating what would honor Him.

The fact that we need to speak in a Christ-like way does not mean that we are not to publicly expose or rebuke sin or compromise;  consider, for instance, the context of what is involved in the second greatest commandment:

Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD. (Lev 19:17-18)

Thus, rebuking those who sin is very loving--it is loving one's neighbor as oneself.  Godly speech does not mean that we are to spinelessly or weakly tolerate sin or compromise.  On the other hand, let us make sure that we are not excusing an unholy rudeness, brashness, and evil speaking under the cloak of godly reproof.  We are to earnestly contend for all of the faith--including that portion of it that forbids rudeness, brashness, and evil speaking.

On this matter of the use of our tongue, the Westminster Larger Catechism has stated very well some things worthy of our careful thought.  Let us prayerfully meditate upon the truths and the texts referenced below, and let them affect our blogging and commenting for God's glory, the good of fellow brethren in Christ, and the benefit of unconverted sinners.

Question 143. Which is the ninth commandment?

Answer. The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. [Exod 20:16]

Question 144. What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?

Answer. The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, [Zech 8:16] and the good name of our neighbour, as well as our own; [3 John 12] appearing and standing for the truth; [Prov 31:8-9] and from the heart, [Ps 15:2] sincerely, [2 Chron 19:9] freely, [1 Sam 19:4-5] clearly, [Josh 7:19] and fully, [2 Sam 14:18-20] speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, [Lev 19:15; Prov 14:5,25] and in all other things whatsoever; [2 Cor 1:17-18; Eph 4:25] a charitable esteem of our neighbours; [Heb 6:9; 1 Cor 13:7] loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; [Rom 1:8; 2 John 4; 3 John 3-4] sorrowing for, [2 Cor 2:4; 2 Cor 12:21] and covering of their infirmities; [Prov 17:9; 1 Pet 4:8] freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, [1 Cor 1:4-5,7; 2 Tim 1:4-5] defending their innocency; [1 Sam 22:14] a ready receiving of a good report, [1 Cor 13:6-7] and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, [Ps 15:3] concerning them; discouraging tale-bearers, [Prov 25:23] flatterers, [Prov 26:24-25] and slanderers; [Ps 101:5] love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requireth; [Prov 22:1; John 8:49] keeping of lawful promises; [Ps 15:4] studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report. [Phil 4:8]

Question 145. What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?

Answer. The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbours, as well as our own, [1 Sam 17:28; 2 Sam 16:3; 2 Sam 1:9-10; 2 Sam 1:15-16] especially in public judicature; [Lev 19:15; Hab 1:4] giving false evidence, [Prov 19:5; Prov 6:16,19] suborning false witnesses, [Acts 6:13] wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth; [Jer 9:3,5; Acts 24:2,5; Ps 12:3-4; Ps 52:1-4] passing unjust sentence, [Prov 17:15; 1 Kings 21:9-14] calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; [Isa 5:23] forgery, [Ps 119:69; Luke 19:8; Luke 16:5-7] concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, [Lev 5:1; Deut 13:8; Acts 5:3; Acts 5:8-9; 2 Tim 4:6] and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves, [1 Kings 1:6; Lev 19:17] or complaint to others; [Isa 59:4] speaking the truth unseasonably, [Prov 29:11] or maliciously to a wrong end, [1 Sam 22:9-10; Ps 52:1-5] or perverting it to a wrong meaning, [Ps 56:5; John 2:19; Matt 26:60-61] or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice; [Gen 3:5; Gen 26:7,9] speaking untruth, [Isa 59:13] lying, [Lev 19:11; Col 3:9] slandering, [Ps 50:20] backbiting, [Ps 15:3] detracting, [James 4:11; Jer 38:4] tale bearing, [Lev 19:16] whispering, [Rom 1:29-30] scoffing, [Gen 21:9; Gal 4:29] reviling, [1 Cor 6:10] rash, [Matt 7:1] harsh, [Acts 28:4] and partial censuring; [Gen 38:24; Rom 2:1] misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; [Neh 6:6-8; Rom 3:8; Ps 69:10; 1 Sam 1:13-15; 2 Sam 10:3] flattering, [Ps 12:2-3] vain-glorious boasting; [2 Tim 3:2] thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; [Luke 18:9,11; Rom 12:16; 1 Cor 4:6; Acts 12:22; Exod 4:10-14] denying the gifts and graces of God; [Job 27:5-6; Job 4:6] aggravating smaller faults; [Matt 7:3-5] hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession; [Prov 28:13; Prov 30:20; Gen 3:12-13; Jer 2:35; 2 Kings 5:25; Gen 4:9] unnecessary discovering of infirmities; [Gen 9:22; Prov 25:9-10] raising false rumors, [Exod 23:1] receiving and countenancing evil reports, [Prov 29:12] and stopping our ears against just defense; [Acts 7:56-57; Job 31:13-14] evil suspicion; [1 Cor 13:5; 1 Tim 6:4] envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, [Num 11:29; Matt 21:15] endeavoring or desiring to impair it, [Ezra 4:12-13] rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; [Jer 48:27] scornful contempt, [Ps 35:15-16,21; Matt 27:28-29] fond admiration; [Jude 16; Acts 12:22] breach of lawful promises; [Rom 1:31; 2 Tim 3:3] neglecting such things as are of good report, [1 Sam 2:24] and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name. [2 Sam 13:12-13; Prov 5:8-9; Prov 6:33]



d4v34x said...

A good reminder, Brother Ross. Thanks.

Jon Gleason said...

Brother Ross, very good post.

A "straw man" is often just another form of bearing false witness -- attributing to others something which they didn't say.

Joshua said...

Good post. I've been thinking about these things ever since a run-in I had over at scoff'n' about 6 months ago.

The verse that convinced me to hang up my cap as an internet rebuker was the following one:

2 Timothy 2:
24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

There is definitely a place for rebuke as you've said, but it's exceedingly difficult to remain gentle and meek doing so over the internet, at least for me.

KJB1611 said...


KJB1611 said...

By the way, we should judge our own comments/posts with much greater severity than the speech/writing of others in this regard, hoping and believing all things, 1 Cor 13.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I don't think it's ever right to sin with your tongue and James 3 says it is a perfect man who doesn't, which means, of course, all of us have. Of course, not telling the truth is a no-no. We've got to tell the truth. We can't lie. We can't exaggerate.

Recently I've had people tell me I lied, when I didn't. And then when I don't just admit it, they say I'm a lot of other things. On the other hand, I've been lied about numbers of times. I don't list them in a separate post, because I don't want people to read them. Someone will ask, "What are my lies then?" And I list two of them and refer to when the others took place, and that's unacceptable. Sometimes people are just going to lie.

Last, there is the tone complaint. Your tone doesn't represent the fruit of the Spirit or you talk in a nasty way, things like that. Those are the toughest times in the blogsphere in m opinion. Joshua talks about it, using 2 Timothy 2. It's good to consider that.

Here's what I've seen happen. There are two different types of incidents. One, you get lied about or slandered about, and you come on to confront that, trying to be nice. They don't take it very well, and mouth off worse, and so you go at them a little bit stronger, thinking of answering a fool according to his folly. I think shutting it down not long after that is best.

Two, you confront someone in a nice way, and they instantly go personal. Almost no confrontation is seen as nice. The only nice confrontation is no confrontation. After they go personal, you go back, maybe nice again. They go personal again. And now you go to the answer the fool type of situation, essentially meeting the rhetorical level. You should shut it down shortly after that.

I'm not sure the above description doesn't fulfill the 2 Timothy 2. The end of a bad conversation will sometimes be abrupt. Even face to face, I have found that when someone won't repent, you've got the last thing you say and it is rough, something like, "You do this at your own peril." Or, "You're bringing God's chastisement or judgment upon you." When Jesus was finally done with people, He had similar statements---blind guides, hypocrites, that kind of thing.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Pastor B,

I agree.

Joshua said...

Just wanted to add my agreement here also. I do think there is a time and a place for a confrontation that will not always end nicely.

Just o clarify, I wasn't 100% happy with how I finished with Remonstrans, particularly the second time. It affected my spirit for weeks afterwards, and I knew I had slipped from wanting to see him recovered from his error into carnal striving. The meekness was out and then the pride must fill its place. I'm sure that wouldn't have happened if I'd talked face to face, so the verse in Timothy was a needful rebuke for me. I'm glad there are others who can still engage in that without crossing the line.

You directly challenged his outright lies and slander, and that didn't go down well nor end pleasantly, but that doesn't mean you must have fallen afoul of 2 Tim 2 like I did.



Kent Brandenburg said...


I'm open to judgment, especially from people without a beam in their eye, to disobedience to 2 Tim 2. I believe you are right on 2 Tim 2, but I was exploring when that gets violated, because it is a knotty problem.

I came back to dissidens with a point a few months later, and I expect to get a bad reaction there, but I wanted to see how he would react to the rap music endorsement from Phil Johnson.

Anyway, again, thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little unsure of how to respond to this post. I don't know any of the writers of this blog, and don't know any of the usual responders. I stumbled across this blog some time ago, and have found practical, God-honoring advice here, for the most part.

But I am saddened by the tone of many of the blog entries. How is it possible to, on the one hand, be worshipping our Lord, and on the other hand, have a sarcastic and put-down tone? The nasty tone of so many of the replies truly concerns me. I know that I risk a put-down just because I am daring to point this out.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Anonymous,

I don't know if you'll consider this a put down, but you're going to have to give me some examples of what you're talking about. For instance, I don't consider your comment to be a put-down, but would you consider it a put-down if it were I writing it? You say there is a nasty tone, and that is so ambivalent, it's almost impossible to correct. I would agree that there is a harsh tone at times here, but it isn't 100% harsh all the time. And if you think it's found in the writing itself, I'm always open to know where I've disobeyed God, so have at it.