Friday, April 10, 2009

Steve Camp and Tim Challies on the Good and Bad of "Watchblogging"

This week I read a couple of interesting articles on the issue of Christian "watchblogging," the internet phenomenon involving the use of blogging to warn the churches about the sinful practices and theological errors they may encounter online or in their communities.

First, on April 6 Tim Challies offered a helpful article entitled Evil as Entertainment, in which he warned against the tendency to virtually revel in "all that is wrong in the church." I think he has hit on something here. It is the same kind of evil that leads so many Christians into gossip, and it should be avoided. Here is Tim's final admonition:

Filling our minds, our hearts, our computer screens, our blogs with all that is wrong in the church will do little to conform us into the image of the Savior. It can do little. My encouragement to you, whether you are a regular visitor to one of these sites or whether you simply visit them occasionally, is to examine your heart and to examine your motives. Do you visit such sites because they have information that you truly need to know? Or do you visit as a means of entertainment? Are you delighting in what is good and true and pure and lovely, or are you finding a strange, sick delight in all that is evil and ugly?
Shouldn't we all agree that we ought check our hearts whenever we seek to be informed about the errors that are revealed in watchblogs? Shouldn't we all agree that we can do the right thing with the wrong motive at times? Can't we perform the tasks of writing and reading watchblogs with the wrong attitudes in our hearts, failing to seek first of all the glory of God and the good of His Church? I think Tim's warnings are good for us all!

However, I also think there is much that is good and necessary about watchblogging. In fact, I have engaged in a bit of this myself, as regular readers of this blog know. I see it as a part of my duty as a pastor given by Jesus to the Church (Eph. 4:11f). I see it as a part of what Paul admonished elders to do for the churches. For example:

NKJ Acts 20:28-31 "28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears."

ESV Titus 1:7-9 "7 For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it."

This is where I believe that Steve Camp's April 8 response to Tim, entitled Blogging, Watchblogging, and Ministry, provides needed balance to what Tim has written. For example, Steve reminds us about the point I have raised above:

The Apostle Paul on Watchblogging
The Apostle Paul states the balance we all so desperately need in this area of Christian blogging. He issues a charge to pastors (but a principle we may all learn from and employ in our blogging) found in Titus 1:9b, "instruct in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict." One positive aspect, one negative aspect. One that instructs; the other that confronts. Both are quite necessary. Faithful instruction in sound doctrine will have to by its very nature confront and address that which is unsound according to Scripture if one is clearly teaching "the whole counsel of God." And by mentioning that which is unsound biblically, means that you must also instruct in that which is sound doctrine for addressing error without the clarification and context of Scriptural truth can push our righteous indignation buttons and be very motivational, but in the end unprofitable. And one that seeks only to state that which is positive biblically and fails to refute error, is more like Norman Vincent Peal than like the Apostle Paul, Peter, or our Lord Jesus Christ (cp, Matt. 23; 2 Peter 2; Jude; 2 Cor. 10).
That last sentence reminds me of the old saying - I think from Vance Havner - "Paul I find appealing, but Peale I find appalling." At any rate, Steve goes on to give some very good advice about questions we can ask ourselves before we blog and lessons we can learn about watchblogging, and it is a must read for those of us who want to honor Christ in our blogging.

I highly recommend checking out both of these men's articles, but especially Steve's practical wisdom regarding the necessity for watchblogging and the appropriate way to go about it.


  1. I agree that both bloggers provide helpful information. But I think Steve makes an error when he lumps all of those bloggers he names as watchbloggers together. Some of them are very circumspect and Biblical in their postings, while others unnecessarily use name calling and inflammatory language. Those are the bloggers I believe Tim was aiming at. It's a bit disingenuous to lump Al Mohler and Phil Johnson with them.

  2. Excellent point, Ed. Thanks for chiming in!