Anonymity

Most of you have probably read the recent article by James White regarding BaptistFire.com and anonymity. But for the sake of discussion (and with his approval), I’m going to post it here as well.

White certainly hits on the real issue with the anonymous writers at BF.com: “there is only one reason for anonymity when writing upon theological subjects: refusal to be held accountable for what one says.”

I’d love to hear some additional thoughts on this matter of accountability and anonymity.


_________________________________________________________
By James White

I suppose, in some very rare instances, there is a reason for men to be anonymous in their writing. I suppose if a fatwah was proclaimed upon someone so that for the safety of one’s family one had to remain anonymous, that would be perfectly acceptable. But in the vast majority of instances, there is only one reason for anonymity when writing upon theological subjects: refusal to be held accountable for what one says.

Whoever is behind BaptistFire.com chooses to present the most horrifically one-sided materials. It is not that they do not know there is another side. They just refuse to acknowledge it or deal with that it says. This makes for “easy” theology: by remaining anonymous and refusing to do the work required of a sound theologian, you can say what you want and ignore its utter decimation in the marketplace of ideas. Who cares if the other side shreds your arguments with regularity? You just have to live on the “margin” of folks who either 1) do not know how to find out what the other side is saying, or 2) have such a strong desire to continue believing what you are teaching that they will join you in willfully ignoring the refutation of their own beliefs. And there is an amazingly large audience to be had under those two heads.

Refusing to hide behind the cloak of anonymity requires one to be held accountable for what you say and how you say it. If you engage in the use of double standards, that will be made clear through the examination of your known writings. But if you hide your identity, you can speak out of both sides of your mouth with impugnity.

There is no room for Christian cowardice in “speaking the truth in love” and even in addressing things which are difficult and divisive. No one is persecuting the folks at BaptistFire.com; they do not need to hide for the safety of their wives and kids. The only reasons they could possibly have would be 1) they know they cannot defend their positions and hence avoid all challenges by remaining unknown; 2) they could lose financially if their one-sided, often grossly erroneous, writings were exposed, or 3) they are double-minded and double-tongued in that they act/say one thing in “real life,” but write/speak otherwise on their website. In any case, none of these constitute a meaningful defense for Christian anonymity in the promulgation of falsehoods, which is what BaptistFire.com is all about.

I have written to BaptistFire a number of times, challenging them to come out of the closet, come into the light of the truth, and engage the issues. They have consistently refused to do so. It is my prayer that eventually one of their number will be convicted about their behavior, leave the group, and “spill the beans” so that real accountability can be brought to bear upon the horrifically flawed materials posted on that website with regularity.

Till then, I will rejoice that I do not have to hide my face in shame when I proclaim God’s truth. I do not have to blush knowing that I am hiding the truth, presenting only a lopsided argument against my own views. And I will not hide behind the anonymity of the Internet, either. My name is James White. I’m the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, www.aomin.org. And every person behind BaptistFire.com knows one thing: not a one of them would ever be caught dead standing before a live audience in a debate against me on the very central issues upon which they pontificate with regularity on their website. That doesn’t make me special: it does, however, reflect very, very badly upon them.

[One of the key arguments you will find against Calvinism on BaptistFire is Adrian Rogers’ sermon on Romans 9. White reviewed this sermon August 31 and September 14, 2002 on The Dividing Line. Those programs are available here.]

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Explore posts in the same categories: BaptistFire - Direct Responses, General, Rules of Engagement

9 Comments on “Anonymity”

  1. Carla Rolfe Says:

    re: “I’d love to hear some additional thoughts on this matter of accountability and anonymity.”

    A couple of months ago this issue came to light in regards to another blogger who has taken it upon himself to attack the faith of a few brothers well known to all of us here.

    Here is what I wrote then:

    What legitimate reason does a Christian really have, for anonymous blogging?

    In some ways, the Christian blogging community is a lot like a big library. Each blog being a book, there are thousands of different authors carried in this library. Some author’s names you recognize right away, some you’ve never heard before, and then there’s the section called “Unknown Authors”.

    Within that section, are some really great blogs, and some really awful ones.

    Some of the really great ones by “author unkown” are the kinds of blogs where thoughts on Scripture, Christian living, parenting & social/political/historical views are expressed. The bloggers don’t necessarily feel the need to put their own “name” out there, for a variety of reasons, and just like to blog quietly, unknown.

    I know of a couple of bloggers that do this and I read their blogs every time they update. The thing is, they aren’t really “unkown authors” to me, since I know their real names, where they live, their kids names, etc. However, to the blogosphere at large, they are considered anon bloggers, and they like it that way.

    Within that section of the unknown authors are also the really bad ones. I mean really bad ones. The bloggers intention is clearly not to write quietly about doctrine & theology, or parenting, or social/political issues. These are the bloggers that zero in on certain other bloggers, or other figures within the Christian community at large, and proceed to tear them apart with accusation, insinuation, etc., so on and so forth. I believe they do it anonymously because they don’t have the courage of their convictions to stand up and say “here I am, this is what I think”. They’re like the 7th grade prank phone callers at 12:30 in the morning. They want to stir up trouble, but they want to do it privately where no one can call them out for it. Maybe, like the anon bloggers that have the really great blogs, these folks also have a small group of aquaintances online who also know who they really are? I don’t know. In any event, God knows exactly who they are and every thought they have.

    So this brings to me thoughts about Christian accountability. A lot has been written about Christian blogging and accountability. I know many blogger’s pastors read their blogs, and I think that’s a great thing. My former pastor didn’t have internet access to read mine, but I did print out several articles that I’d written over the past few years and shared them with him, to show him what I was writing about. I wanted him to know what I was doing online, and I wanted to be accountable under his leadership. He knows all about what I write. And I had his full support & still do. If at any time he expressed a concern for what I was writing, I would be required to take his concerns seriously and re-examine the content of my blog. This is part of what it means to be accountable to a local church body and be under the authority of a pastor.

    So the question I wonder about is pretty simple. If you’re anonymously blogging mean spirited things about people you dislike, is your pastor reading your blog? Does your pastor approve of what you’re writing? To me, it seems likes the cowards way out, to publish entry after entry filled with nothing but tearing down people in the Christian community that you don’t like. What’s worse is, a lot of this stuff isn’t even about doctrine or theological issues, but those things are used to express a genuine ugliness toward the person’s character.

    Which brings me to another issue – credibility. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a real hard time putting much stock into anything someone says (even if I know it to be true) when that person doesn’t even have the courage to say it under their real name, or even some kind of information about who they are or what their background is. I mean really, if they’re going to be name-dropping all over the place, what about their name, and putting their own character & doctrinal beliefs out there to be scrutinized in the same fashion that they’re doing to others?

    These days, anyone can anonymously set up a blog in minutes and begin publishing their thoughts. The internet is such that just about anyone, can say anything, with no accountability. To me, that fosters a huge amount of NO CREDIBILITY. How do we take folks serious that won’t even blog with their own name? How do we know they’re someone to be trusted as far as research goes, or education, or experience? If you know virtually nothing about them, how do you put any credibility into what they’re saying? I have a real tough time doing that.

    So those are just a few thoughts about anon blogging that are rumbling through my head this morning. I realize there are variables to all of this, and likely many other issues associated with it that I haven’t even thought of. I’ve never blogged anonymously so I don’t understand the mindset behind it.

    I do know one thing though. There is no such thing as anonimity with the Lord. He knows full well who we all are, and He knows exactly why we’re writing about the things we’re writing. If any of us honestly think we can escape accountability by blogging anonymously, we’d better think again.

    SDG,
    Carla Rolfe

  2. Gene Says:

    Amen, Carla! Amen!

  3. Peter Says:

    Hi,

    Although I agree that anonymity brings reason for skepticism. A crucial point that might be overlooked is that most of the substance being offered at BF is material written by known sources (Ergun Caner, Bailey, etc as of right now on the website). Perhaps the website authors are anonymous, but the material is not. Secondly, when something like BF or SBF or any other Calvinism/AntiCal blog is put up, the majority of public realize the obvious one sidedness of the issue that is being offered. If the public chooses not to do further research onto the other blogs then it really is the individual’s fault.
    Third, I dont think that the “unaccountable” accusation makes sense. Although, they might not have any risk of reputation to their real name in the real world, the term “BaptistFire.Com” becomes accountable and put at risk for false information. This is the controversy people see with Wikipedia.Com–if theres no author, and its just a blog, then it beocomes the OPPOSITE of unnacountability, it becomes a bigger risk of skepticism.

    Lastly, I really love your logo. Its not your typical “classic” look that so many Christian blogs seem to have.

    In Christ,
    Peter

  4. Fred Says:

    In reference to this post and the more recent one by Gene, what I have always found oddly amusing is how trolls, like our anonymous anti-Calvinist, truly believe they are taking on the persona of an OT prophet or NT apostle with this type of rhetoric. He believes name calling and other ad hominem attacks equates to standing for the truth.

    However, you will always note that the prophets put their name upon their prophecy. Meaning, they took a risk for speaking a “thus saith the Lord,” because if they were found to be lying, they were to be killed, or worse still, stand in place of being judged by God Almighty Himself. Any anonymity against another Christian demonstrates a lack of integrity to the truth.

    Moreover, it shows a theology driven by conspiritorial nonsense, a worldview often imbibed by these extreme KJVO/anti-Calvinists. I am sure if pressed, the troll would argue that he doesn’t want his identity known because of a fear the dark, one world forces could then come to his basement.

    Fred

  5. John Weaver Says:

    Not to complain, but I will. If you are going to include a link to a response to something mentioned in a post which requires a payment put a disclaimer on it please. Thanks.

  6. Child of God Says:

    Nathan,

    Have you ever commented on a blog anonymously? To be more specific, have you ever commented on The Calvinist Flyswatter’s (aka Charles) blog?

  7. Child of God Says:

    Correction: Have you ever commented on The Calvinist Flyswatter’s blog anonymously?

  8. Nathan White Says:

    COG, I’ve never commented on the ‘blog’ that you mentioned, and I have never commented anonymously on a blog or forum ever in my life.

    I’m not sure why you feel the need to ask that question to me, and to ask it here, but in the future please send me an email with any personal questions.

    SDG


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