Excessive Rhetoric, Criticisms of Individuals, and Helping us Moderate Both

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Staff member
Bump; just for a refresher or reminder for regular members who have not seen it in a while.
I'm going to need some help fleshing this out so please feel free to suggest improvements to this post so it will stand as a new forum rule.

We have a problem that has existed as a slow boil for a while that has boiled over recently and led to some good interaction with the Moderators on how to address it. We instituted an infraction system for some violations of rhetoric but this proves to be ineffective with some as it only inflames and does not instruct in some cases.

We have a general problem that many of us are going too far in our criticisms and violate the 9th Commandment in the process. Let me remind us all that the 9th Commandment is not merely violated when we'll only be convicted by a jury of our peers for libel or slander but is violated whenever we don't do everything in our power to uphold the good name of our neighbor. Remember that Christ commands that we love our neighbors: we are required to uphold the good name of our enemies and especially honor those who name Christ. Impossible with men but we are supposed to be children of God.

It's also good to remember that you can't charge a person with holding to all the implications of his statements. Men aren't omniscient, and that's reflected in the fact that what we say or write often implies conclusions we would repudiate if we realized it. So you can criticize a man for his espoused positions and point out that it logically involves some worse error but you can't criticize the man for espousing that more grievous error without additional evidence.

That said, there are a few general guidelines to check before you criticize a person by name in open or protected forum:

Public criticisms of ministers may be appropriate in the following circumstances:

1. The minister is dead and the discussion centers on his body of work and contribution to the Christian church.
2. The minister is living and has chosen to go public with his ministry.
3. The minister has been defrocked and his case is now in the public domain.
4. The minister displays satisfactory evidence of being a false teacher and/or heretic.

Now, even with these guidelines, let me remind you that the name of Christ is often mocked because of how we tear each other down in "naming names". One of the notable things about reading Calvin is how he lays down heavy artillery on contemporaries of his time without calling them out by name. He criticizes their position and you have to read the footnotes of the editors to figure out he's going after Melancthon or Luther or even a heretic like Servetus. If it can be said without naming names then criticize the position without calling out the individual by name.

In summary:

1. If you can criticize a position without calling out the man by name then endeavor to do so.
2. If it is necessary to speak against a man then speak soberly and avoid hyperbolic language that simply plays to the crowd.
3. Evidence of a specific abuse and examples need to be provided if a particularly egregious criticism is going to be levied.
4. Above all, we must be tireless in upholding the good name of our neighbor at all costs even if we're critical. Christ demands it of us toward our enemies and especially toward those that name Christ.

How can you help?

If you witness excessive rhetoric then please use the Report Post feature in the upper right hand corner of each post. It's usually a red circle. Please note the nature of the rhetorical excess in the criticism. Sometimes criticism is warranted and the moderators will simply edit out the rhetorical excess. If you can provide some facts to help the moderators sort out the exaggerations then this will help us in our editing. Please do not respond to rhetorical excess in kind and make the "clean up" that much harder. We want to move some of these conversations forward and not completely derail them or have to close them because we've gotten in a shouting match telling each other how ugly the other's baby is.

Ask Mr. Religion

Flatly Unflappable
Works for me and I have referenced it (with a link) in other forums where the message contained therein is all to frequently lost.


Puritan Board Freshman
Good advice. I am convinced one can differ without attacking the man. On ocassions Paul named names - there are times this may be necessary but I always would like to know have to first gone or attempted contact with individual in question.


Puritan Board Freshman
Truth and Love.
Gospel and Grace.
Love and Unity.

A tall order but clearly our guide from the Master Himself and His Word. Thank you for the encouragement.

I am looking forward to following the threads and posts.
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Puritan Board Freshman
This is very sage wisdom. I dare say that most of us, while in private in the presence of Christians we know and trust, in regards to a passage of text that we have not studied in-depth have asked the question "is it possible that..."

First glance analysis of the text may suggest that our proposed interpertation is a reasonable one... but few Christians have ever asked the question "is it possible that..." without getting the answer "I can see how that would seem logical on the surface, but if you follow it to the inevitable conclusion..."

The real test of orthodoxy in cases like that is if the believer asking the question, presenting the proposal, etc. repudiates their claim upon satisfactory presentation of biblical evidence that their position is false.


Puritan Board Freshman
Excellent Advice

I haven't visited this post for a while now. This post is excellent advice for all believers who endavour to honour our Lord.[
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