|A258 : by Tony Garland |
I do remember your questions from many years ago. I'm embarrassed to admit that I still have questions in my Q&A backlog from as far back as when you first contacted me. (I have simply been unable to answer questions at the rate they arrive—even without the overhead of publishing an interactive blog.)
Thanks for suggesting the blog post on Daniel for my consideration. I concur with you: Daniel's 70 weeks is a passage fraught with complexities and many who teach it do not always admit the weaknesses of their interpretation. The number of views on aspects of this prophecy and its timing is staggering. I'm quite sure it will be the most challenging part of my commentary.
One caution I would offer regarding [the blog you referred to]: as gifted as the author appears to be (I'm not familiar with him), he admits to being a new Christian, “[I am] a young Christian whose favorite pastime is studying the Bible.” Even so, he apparently feels adequately equipped to forge into some very complex areas and set others (with far more time and experience) straight. Of course anyone without any particular background or Bible training is free to offer their opinions and suggestions—and seminary training itself is no guarantee of accuracy or insight—I would say that considerable caution is advised before swallowing what he has to say.
For instance, in another blog article, he takes on another complex topic: the inerrancy of Scripture. I notice that his conclusions on inerrancy stand at odds with a large number of conservative theologians who have much greater familiarity with the Scriptures, historical views on inerrancy, subtleties of logical argument, and the underlying witness of manuscript evidence (not to mention the original languages). Men like Dr. R. C. Sproul, Dr. Albert Mohler, Dr. Paige Patterson, Dr. Norm Geisler, Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. Robert Thomas, and Dr. F. David Farnell—just to name a few of the more recent scholars who come to mind.
One of the blessings of the Internet is that there is no gate-keeper and anyone can publish information. One of the curses of the Internet is that there is no gate-keeper and anyone can publish information.
My concern, as a pastor, is that there are many untrained and untaught Christians, like this fellow who admits to being a Christian greenhorn, who regularly publish their ideas on various Christian forums and blogs. Many of the ones I've come across are woefully simplistic in their understanding of important concepts and Scriptural passages which apply to the topic at hand. More than that, these same individuals generally have little concern that their conclusions and doctrines may not accurately convey the teaching of Scripture. Surely, taking on the self-appointed position of teachers of God's Word, these individuals must be familiar with the warning by James: My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment (Jas. 3:1). Yet, they seem unconcerned (or blissfully unaware) of the possible ill-effects of their inexperienced pontification upon other Christians who visit their blogs and forums.
Occasionally, when I've had the opportunity to interacted with some of them, I've been dismayed by their hubris and the lack of respect they express for more experienced teachers who have gone before. It seems to me, if trends continue as they are, that one of Christianity's biggest internal challenges in the years ahead is the damage that will accrue from these who purport to lead others into a deeper understanding of God's Word while themselves lacking important characteristics of a faithful teacher: humility coupled with a reticence to publish one's thoughts without due diligence.
Among those voices which proclaim the loudest are some of the least qualified and less carefully considered. They simply haven't done the necessary time in the word. Many lack a true familiarity with Scripture, have little familiarity with the issues of interpretation (hermeneutics), lack exposure to theology and the development of doctrine, an insufficient grasp of logic, and often lack training in the original languages. While none of these additional areas guarantee a faithful or accurate result, they can only be ignored at the greatly increased risk of errant conclusions. Surely such folk should take greater pause before trumpeting their conclusions on the Internet.
A related concern is the growing number of Christians who substitute frequenting Christian blogs and forums on the Internet for committed attendance and participation at a local fellowship where they can be guided by elders. Many of these believers are only beginning to establish a basis for discerning what is good and what isn’t so good out there in “Christian Internet-Land.” These often given themselves away during an email exchange because when I ask them whether they've taken up the topic-at-hand with their pastors, they go silent: generally because they do not attend a fellowship and don't have pastors.1 Apparently, they believe it is possible to grow ever closer to Christ while remaining disobedient to the divine injunction expressed by the writer of Hebrews: And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching (Heb. 10:24-25).
My advice would be to exercise caution when studying Christian doctrine on the Internet, whether found on this website or elsewhere. Always treat it as distant secondary source to live instruction from the bible study groups and pulpit of a local church— the preferred and Scripturally-endorsed environment in which to safely grow as a Christian.
|1.||It's one thing not to be able to find a good local fellowship for a period of time, but quite another to remain out of fellowship for an extended period.|