Re: Principles and BG-Netiquette

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Oct 03 1997 - 09:38:17 EDT

At 10:01 PM -0500 10/2/97, Ward Powers wrote:
>Fellow Greekers:
>I have been pondering Carl's posting about BG-Netiquette, which clearly he
>felt it was necessary to say to us in reminder.
>I am not questioning his comments about the two particular threads to be
>closed down, concerning which he writes. But I want to address the wider
>question of principle.
>Carl is in effect telling us that we should not discuss on-list those
>issues about which we feel strongly, because these will also be issues
>where list members differ from one another, and we are incapable of
>differing from each other in loving and respectful tones, so that a vicious
>flame war is likely to be the outcome.
>I find this very sad. VERY sad.

I'm sorry that this is the way it appears to have come across. I'm sorry
that I've felt I had to say it also. I know very well that there are plenty
of list-members, and probably most of them, who by habit if not
instinctively can discuss issues about which they feel strongly and differ
from each other in loving and respectful tones. I will only add that I've
felt I had to say it because I've observed it repeatedly, both on this list
and in the dialogues that many who call themselves Christians carry on with
each other in the public arena. It is by no means a certainty that a given
topic will start a flame war, but experience has shown that some topics
will start one sooner than others. And it doesn't, by any means, indicate
that those involved are by nature mean and vindictive and intolerant
persons. But I have know very few (if any) committed believers whose
hackles will not be raised if they feel that their own ox is being gored.
And this isn't a matter just of academics or professionals or clergy or
laypersons: I haven't noticed that these "types" act differently from each
other in this respect in any significant degree, if at all. And no,
although I believe in it profoundly, I'm NOT arguing here on behalf of a
doctrine of original sin.

>I have been a Christian for 50 years come next February 14, and in that
>time I have had many of my early views clarified and confirmed, and many
>others challenged and modified. While some of this has happened through my
>putting myself under the teaching of others and through my own study and
>research, much of it has come about in a context of vigorous discussion -
>yes, even debate and argument. Iron sharpens iron, the Scripture says.
>I like to hear an opposing view propounded by someone who firmly believes
>it and who can put up the strongest case for it. Usually, also, I like the
>opportunity to respond in kind, with the goal of explaining my position
>clearly to my brother. (Note, I do not say, to my opponent.)
>Now, through listening to a different viewpoint I may actually come to
>change my own. (This happened to me personally on one issue as recently as
>the Australian and New Zealand Society for Theological Studies annual
>conference in Brisbane a couple of months ago.) But it is not the primary
>goal. The primary goal is that we should each end up with a better
>understanding of a viewpoint which we do not hold - and thus a better
>understanding of each other.

I whole-heartedly agree with this, and I have had the same experience of
significantly altering my own deeply-felt views on a matter as a result of
discussion with one or more persons holding a very different deeply-felt
view on the same matter. But I've also been present at discussions that
were wasted opportunities because the discussants really did NOT respect
each other.

>Surely on b-greek we are mature enough to be able to handle the vigorous
>discussion of different strongly-held views without interpreting this as a
>personal attack or a flame war!?!

I'm not really sure that this is simply a matter of maturity, although it
surely is to some degree. From my own observations I've come to conclude
that the best and most useful discussion on deep-felt issues takes place
among persons who are not only deeply-committed but also reasonably secure
in their self-image and less likely to feel hurt personally by
strongly-stated opposing views.

>If some areas are out of bounds on b-greek because they are not really a
>discussion of Greek, that is one thing, and fair enough too. But if some
>things are out of bounds because of the fact that people on the list have
>firmly-held opinions on both sides, then indeed and truly, I find that sad.
>Let me say this emphatically: if you see a post on b-greek over my name,
>you are very welcome to disagree with me as strongly as you like, and I
>will not take it amiss. I may respond by defending my view, but that will
>not be an attack upon you. I will almost certainly learn something from the
>exchange and maybe others will also. Certainly, I will never attack or
>impugn you because you differ from me, and if you argue against me I will
>not take this as a personal attack.
>That's a promise.

I welcome and appreciate this message and this promise. I want to add one
other important point that has been stated before, but perhaps not clearly
enough. The B-Greek Staff have deliberately NOT spelled out areas of
discussion that are off-limits on B-Greek for at least two reasons: (1) we
do have confidence that the great majority are quite sensible enough to
steer clear of far-off tangential matters; (2) whatever the peril, we would
rather try to put out flames that have arisen when an issue of discussion
proves to be too volatile than to draw tight lines around a very
narrowly-defined area.

That being said, I would reiterate yet once more and again (that's not
hendiadys, or tridiadys, or anything else but old-fashioned emphatic
redundancy) that the focus of discussion here should be upon the Greek text
of the Bible or the Greek language as it is principally used in the Bible,
Old and New Testaments and Patristic documents. This is not a place to talk
about theology as such or Christian doctrine as such. Yet obviously
passages in the Greek Bible have theological implications and we read them,
whatever our individual backgrounds and faith-commitments may be, each with
our own particular theological slants and assumptions. It's been said
repeatedly, I think, that the strict line we want to draw is between giving
one's own convictions and assumptions expression in discussing a passage
and stating, suggesting, or hinting or implying that this conviction and
these assumptions are ones that any other intelligent and right-thinking
person MUST accept or adhere to. In sum, if I may put it as succinctly as I
can, it is a matter of stating one's own understanding of the truth with
love and without condescension to others who understand the truth

I apologize for the length of this reply. It is difficult to say what one
thinks needs to be said without either saying too much or too little. I'd
rather err, I guess, on the side of saying too much than on the side of
saying too little.

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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