Re: Principles and BG-Netiquette

From: Ward Powers (
Date: Sat Oct 04 1997 - 23:16:11 EDT

Fellow b-greekers,

On October 3 I responded to a post from Carl in which he explained the
reasons for calling a halt to two threads, and made some accompanying
comments about what could be discussed on-list.

I emphasized at the beginning of my post that I was not referring to the
two threads to which a halt had been called. I was addressing the question
of principle of what could be said by contributors to the list.

Carl and Jonathan (amongst others) have responded, and I gratefully
appreciate their reassurances about the fact that (so long as the issue
discussed relates to matters of Greek) it is legitimate to discuss on-list
those topics about which list members feel strongly and have deep
convictions. This of course is the question which concerned me.

But some of the responses implied that I was over-reacting, or that nothing
had been said which gave any grounds for me to be concerned. So it does
appear that there is some misunderstanding abroad on the list as to just
what it was that was troubling me. I did not actually include any
quotations in my previous post, and I now judge that this was an unwise
omission on my part. Let me remedy it.

In his second paragraph, Carl says that what is being considered in his
post, and which "has no little importance", is

> the sort of exchanges that take
>place on our list, and ... the sort of restrictions
>upon topics that are appropriate for discussion on the list.

This then is the issue of principle which I was addressing.

In his fourth paragraph Carl says that the threads which he discusses were
a problem because they

>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

Furthermore (paragraph 5), a certain issue

>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.

On the face of it, this seems to indicate that the only topics suitable for
discussion are those about which nobody has personal convictions or feels

And again (paragraph 6), the second issue was ruled out of court because

>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.

Let me emphasize again: I was NOT raising then (nor am I now) the two
issues which called forth Carl's comments. I was addressing the PRINCIPLE
at stake in what he was saying. Carl went some of the way towards setting
things in balance in his paragraph 7:

>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.

Fair enough. However, my concern was (and is) lest the earlier paragraphs
should discourage list-members from discussing issues simply because they
felt strongly about those issues and they expected there would be others
who disagreed with them.

But such interaction with others is what membership of this list is all
about. I WANT and NEED my ideas and beliefs challenged. That is how I
reassess and reaffirm (and maybe occasionally readjust) them, as I see
whether they stand up under scrutiny. This is the whole esse of academic
interaction. My faith and convictions are not such a hot-house plant that
they wilt and wither if someone says "I don't agree".

At least, that is how I see the list. If we are required to avoid
discussion of issues solely because some others may strongly disagree with
me and we cannot be trusted not to get into a flame war, then (as I said in
my previous post), this makes me very, very sad.

However, from recent clarificatory comments on-list, as I understand it, it
is now stated that we may put forward strongly-held views (so long as they
relate to Greek), and explain and defend them, provided that we do not:

(a) continue to do so repeatedly once we have presented our viewpoint
adequately on list;
(b) speak ungraciously to or about another contributor or their opinions;
(c) assert that ours is the only valid position to hold, so that anyone
taking a contrary position is wilfully and culpably obtuse and/or ignorant.

I am putting this into my own wording, to see if I have correctly
understood the limits we are being asked to observe. And very reasonable
limits they are too, with which I am sure we are all in warm agreement.
Within these limits we are encouraged to engage in vigorous debate about
the form, meaning, and teaching of the Greek NT.

Great!! Let's get on with it.


Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-9799-7501
10 Grosvenor Crescent Phone (Australia): (02) 9799-7501
SUMMER HILL NSW 2130 email:

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