Re: Principles and BG-Netiquette

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun Oct 05 1997 - 09:09:19 EDT

I am not going to cite the whole of this well-balanced and sensitive
discussion of the questions involved in this thread. I really think Ward
has brought the issues very nicely into perspective that focuses well on as
many sides of the problems as I am aware of--I hedge that only because it's
a bit perilous to claim ability to foresee the future or claim that all
problems have been fully recognized and obviated. I am amazed, shocked,
dismayed, and/or delighted repeatedly all the time by things I never
anticipated. Life is wonderful, and not least in that it is ever fresh and
new in what it presents to us.

At 10:16 PM -0500 10/4/97, Ward Powers wrote:
>Fellow b-greekers,
> . . .
>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.

I would re-iterate the caveat stated in the parenthesis above: we feel
strongly and have deep convictions, and none about which we feel more
strongly than about our faith--but we really out to avoid broaching
subjects of this sort that don't arise from or clearly relate to the
Biblical Greek language or our readings in the Greek text of the Bible. I
hope that caveat is both reasonably clear and doesn't appear in itself to
be excessively restrictive.

> ...
>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

Well noted. While it may not have been evident, I really did not mean to
imply that only things that people are indifferent about are proper matters
for discussion. What I meant to suggest was that "those passions felt
strongly on either side of an issue" should not themselves become the issue
under discussion.

> . . .
>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.

Here I would add two comments, both of which, I fear, I have offered
previously, but both of which I feel compelled to reiterate. (1) While this
list seems to have originated as a heavily academic list and continued as
such in its earlier years, it has become much more diverse and much less
decidedly academic in the past two years. And I think that's healthy. Much
of the discussion involves problems of understanding the Greek text,
including relatively simply problems of construing the words in their
syntactic relationships. Such problems belong here and many of us are well
equipped to help people struggling with such problems, even though they do
not involve any "passions" stronger than the passion to understand a Greek
phrase or sentence that one finds puzzling. Other people want to bring here
problems of general Biblical interpretation that really don't depend upon
the Greek text and that can and should be discussed in forums different
from this one. And I hope we'll stay open to academic questions too. I
think that Ward and David (Moore) have been carrying on a really
fascinating academic discussion of AGAMOS that is by no means without
implications for how believing clergy and laypersons conduct their lives in
accordance with their convictions. The convictions underlying that exchange
are pretty evident, I think, but they pose no threat because the level of
respect of each for the other is never in question. Would this were always
the case, which brings me to the other point. (2) Ward says,

> 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.

To which I repeat, this makes me very, very sad also. And perhaps we won't
have the flame wars if people will think twice about the manner of their
reaction to other posts and the attitude they express toward the
convictions and persons to which they are about to react in a response. The
flame wars won't happen if list-members consistently and without exception
respect each other.

>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.

I welcome wholeheartedly the above formulation. I certainly could not have
expressed these caveats more precisely and clearly myself--nor as well.

>Great!! Let's get on with it.


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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