Re: BG-Netiquette--please note

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Sep 29 1997 - 08:46:55 EDT

As list-members are aware, some perhaps gladly, others perhaps to their
chagrin, a Christian faith-commitment (or any other kind of
faith-commitment, for that matter) is NOT an obligatory qualification for
participation. Nonetheless I think it is safe to say that by far the
majority of BG-listers are committed Christians of one sort or another. And
therein lies the problem as well as the opportunity of a list like ours.
However much they may say or may sing, "They'll know we are Christians by
our love," those who call themselves Christians have a very poor track
record over 2000 years for loving each other and often for even
acknowledging each other as authentic brothers and sisters in the faith.
But, of course, if intolerance of differences is a common Christian
failing, it is hardly restricted to Christians.

This fact has no little importance for the sort of exchanges that take
place on our list, and it has very much to do with the sort of restrictions
upon topics that are appropriate for discussion on the list. And since
there has been some discomfort, chafing, even outright indignation
expressed (not all of it on-list) about these restrictions, I'd like to
comment, as briefly as possible, about those restrictions and the reasons
for them.

We (i.e. the B-Greek Staff) have tried to indicate as clearly as possible
that the focus of discussion on this list is fundamentally the Greek text
of the Bible (OT or NT, including apocryphal literature and even patristic
texts such as occasionally are brought into the discussion) and the Greek
language used in the Bible, including study tools and pedagogical methods
and problems involved in the teaching and learning of the language. Yet we
have NOT tried to spell out specifically those areas that are OUTSIDE the
proper focus of discussion on the list, and the reasons for that are at
least twofold: (1) we really believe that most list-members are readily
aware of the kinds of questions that do not "make for peace," and (2) we
think it's best to retain as much flexibility as possible and not step in
to urge or demand the cessation of a flame-stirring thread unless it
becomes absolutely necessary.

Yet twice within the last week threads have been initiated and prolonged
that were sufficiently threatening to the peace of the list that a halt had
to be called to them. I think it might be helpful if any who did not
understand why they had to be halted could be made to understand why the
threads were problematic. The reason is simply this: both threads, whether
or not so intended by those who initiated them, encroached upon the area of
list-members' personal faith convictions and commitments, and that is an
area that must be kept out of the discussion, at least insofar as it
involves a challenge or threat to the convictions and commitments of other
list-members. I want now to be specific about the perils inherent in those
two threads.

One of those threads concerned the question whether list-members think the
doctrine of inerrancy and authentic scholarship are incompatible. Now this
is obviously a question to which some list-members may very well feel they
would answer positively while others think there is no relationship at all
between the two. But whatever list-members may personally feel about that
question, it was really NOT a proper topic for discussion, because it must
almost certainly rouse the passions of people who feel strongly on either
side of that question. Of course it is true that the question would not
have been asked if the questioner hadn't felt that his own convictions were
being insulted by other posters--and that is precisely the reason why it's
important for us to be sensitive when we do (as we often do) feel that we
must state clearly how our own faith-perspective affects the way we respond
to a particular interpretative question about the text of the GNT. We need
to be careful to state our own conviction, when it seems important or
useful to do so, in a way that does not challenge or affront the
convictions and faith-commitments of other list-members. Mutual respect is
earned by the demonstration of mutual respect.

The second thread concerned the question whether 1 John 2:7-8 contained two
contradictory statements. Much of this discussion and of the earlier
discussion on chapters 1 and 3 of 1 John had been quite fruitful, or had
seemed so, although it appeared to be getting repetitive at the time it was
suggested it should be taken off-list. What was the peril in this question?
Quite simply that it shifted its focus from what the text of those two
verses in 1 John could reasonably be understood to mean in their Greek
formulation to the question whether there are contradictions in the
Biblical text. But that's a matter of list-members' opposed and deep
convictions and faith-commitments; it has to do with how one understands
the nature of the Biblical text and the way it communicates its message to
readers. Once that area is entered, the peace of the list is disturbed and
the passions of list-members become inflamed. And that's why the Edward
Hobbs, as Chair of the BG-Staff, intervened to call a halt to the thread.

I hope what happened last week, if its implications are understood, may be
instructive and conducive to better interaction on the list. We can learn a
lot from each other about Biblical Greek and the text of the Greek Bible,
if only we can refrain from affronting each other's convictions. This
doesn't mean that we should refrain from stating our own convictions where
they make clear the reason why one sees a text in a particular way, but
when we state our convictions we need to do in a way that does not
challenge and affront those who hold different convictions. May I ask,
then, that we all seek to be more sensitive and respectful when we feel we
need to state our own convictions. Ultimately the way of mutual respect is
imperative if our interaction on the list is to remain fruitful.

Let me say in conclusion that I am speaking for myself here, but I believe
that I'm expressing the understanding of List Etiquette shared by all
B-Greek Staff members.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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