Theologians and ethicists will point out that sins can be grouped into a couple of types: sins of commission and sins of omission. In the first, the sin is active–I did something wrong that I shouldn’t have (ie. punched somebody in the face). In the second, I failed to do something that I should have (ie. I failed to speak up on behalf of a slandered friend.) Of course, usually you can frame any action in a passive or active form and mess with the whole idea, but, we’ll leave that to the side for a moment.
Why go into this? Well, because sins of omission are of the most common types that bloggers and online authors are accused of committing:
“You didn’t address…”
“What you left out…”
“Why didn’t you say…?”
“Your problem is that you don’t talk about…”
It’s easy to find these or a half-dozen other variants in the comment section of any semi-controversial or persuasive article; I know I’ve had more than a few along those lines and left some myself. Often-times they’re quite on point. Authors will forget, leave out, ignore, or deny key issues in the discussion, which makes the discussion weaker and skews the whole argument. When it happens it ought to be addressed and dealt with.
That said, it bears considering, especially in online forums, that there are structural limitations to the format. Unless your name is Alastair Roberts and you write posts that ought to constitute chapters in very large reference books, a blog post, with a word limit and a limited of scope and focus, simply can’t address every issue that may be tangentially connected to it. Nor should it have to.
For instance, a buddy of mine wrote a post the other day criticizing a very popular line of thought in Evangelical dating wisdom about what constitutes male ‘intentionality.’ He wrote it to specifically address one article on the subject and provide a corrective. Now while a great deal of healthy discussion ensued, a number of people proceeded to criticize him for failing to address a whole host of points connected to the issue. One even said it was a failure because he didn’t first articulate a comprehensive theology of dating from which to address the point.
Really? Really? So your complaint is that this was a post instead of a book? Cool.
And this is where I get to the point of this mini-rant on blogging hermeneutics: you can’t say everything in every post all the time. It’s simply impossible. When you’re reading stuff online, don’t assume that just because an author doesn’t mention a point, they don’t believe it.
So, in the interest of better, future blog I’d like to quixotically suggest a few questions that readers can ask themselves as they read and comment:
- “What is the author’s argument? What are they trying to accomplish?” In this way, when you see that someone is dealing with an issue related to the cross, it’s not necessarily the case that they’re ignoring the resurrection–it’s simply that this isn’t the point of the discussion.
- “Does the neglect of this topic, or verse, or fact, necessarily mean the person doesn’t believe it?” Again, maybe they just didn’t have time to address it given their stated purpose and word-limit.
- “Is this really a bad article, or did I just want a different one altogether?” Consider whether your problem is that the author left something out, or whether you just thought they should have written a different article. Often-times the article is fine for what it’s trying to do, but you really think an entirely different article should have been written. If so, it’s fine to say that.
We could probably think of other questions and angles on the issue, but these are probably a good start.
Soli Deo Gloria