Peter Leithart warns about the danger of Christians taking their complaints before the court of bloggers:
Paul urges that it is better to be defrauded and wronged than to take a brother to court: “It is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another” (v. 7). Paul urged the Corinthians to follow Jesus by suffering shame, rather than seeking vindication before unbelievers.
Many Christians today are resolved not to take a brother to a civil court, but try to solve disputes through arbitration or through church-courts. That is highly commendable.
Yet many Christians are perfectly content to take disputes with their brothers to the web, presenting them before the court of public opinion, before unbelievers.
What should we say about that? Does that come under the same Pauline strictures? The web, after all, is not only filled with unbelievers but is a notorious free-for-all. Civil courts have rules of evidence and mechanisms to confirm or refute allegations. The web has none of these controls, and taking a case to the web is like taking it to a court where everyone is judge, jury, and executioner. People who have no right to have an opinion get to express an opinion. Is that a good place for Christians to be wrangling with each other?
Is there a difference between public theological debate and public airing of grievances and complaints against a church or a pastor? Am I contradicting my own principle by blogging about this?
I understand the temptation to take it to the Court of Google. Resolving disputes through church channels is laborious, slow, unsatisfying. Church boards and courts make mistakes, and, as in civil courts, decisions often leave all parties frustrated and unhappy about the outcome. Many churches in the United States are nondenominational churches that don’t present any obvious way of resolving conflicts that are unresolved in a local church.
I get the point. If we lived in a world of Caesaro-papism, maybe all aspects of life would be overseen by the emperor/bishop.
But not taking every dispute to the church also pertains to a whole host of modern conveniences. Do we not solicit a second opinion about a surgery? Do church courts decide? Do scholars not seek publication in journals reviewed by experts in the field?
And why can’t the Internet just be a place to have a conversation? Do we really need to check with session or consistory about what the family might discuss over dinner tonight? Peter’s point seems a tad pietistic, which is surprising since I suspect he has frequently found himself, independent of church oversight, in a bar gassing on with friends about various foes.