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Joined: Aug 2010
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A very contemporary, present topic I think......

CONTEXT
In any contemporary western country with the rule of law, we have legal rights and protection whenever somebody violates our right to confidentiality....your credit card company is not allowed to take your personal details and spending habits and attach your name to your that data on their website, for example. If they do, there are legal recourses. Most of us would consider that a legitimate law of the land not in violation of God's Word.

SCENARIO
Confessing Christian A (taken to be a brother) makes a theological statement within a confidential arrangement like a private server environment (I mean a legally binding type of confidentiality agreement or non-disclosure agreement, not a public server) to another Christian B and Christian B believes wholeheartedly that it's heresy. In this environment, people are accustomed to putting their thoughts out there, sort of a Christian discussion "sandbox", forum-type environment.

QUESTIONS
Given that Christian B is bound by their contract and by the legitimate law of the land, does the Bible reveal laws or commands which release Christian B of those confidentiality restrictions?

If so, is it a complete release? ie is Christian B given a higher duty (or right or command or obligation?) to release Christian A's statement all over the internet for the world to see and expose him?

The Bible speaks of discipline for heresy on the one hand, but also to be in subjection to the legal power.

What, if anything, are we bound to do by Scripture?

What are some things we should consider?

I posted my thoughts on this on my own blog (not here for hits but will give it out if asked) but I wonder if I'm on track so would like to hear some thoughts. And thanks for posting any!

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Quick answer: Perhaps the 9th Commandment addresses this in that the motive(s) of 'Christian B' are regulated by this commandment. Thus his reason(s) would have to be upright in order to publicly publish the views of Christian A. Otherwise, the public revelation of Christian B's views could rightly be construed as malicious gossip.


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One could certainly argue the statement or it's implications without attributing the statement to a particular author. "Suppose someone argued...(statement believed to be heretical). How would you respond as a Christian?"

Christian A would likely recognize his own statement, but since it is not attributed to him, he cannot claim any breach of the civil law. But I would hope that in such a case, that Christian B would confront Christian A privately and with love as his motivation.

I remember some folks getting in trouble on another discussion board for merely participating in a discussion in which the "accused" was not an active participant. And while most of us believed that his lack of participation was quite deliberate and designed to "excuse" him from justifying his claims, nevertheless the folks were wrong to continue a public discussion of the matter without his participation. And this was after numerous attempts to resolve the matter privately were ignored. However once the offender published his claims, making them public, he then assumed the liability to justify his claims (which he never has - he just clams up and has his underlings ban anyone on the board who brings up the matter). But as Pilgrim said, it's a matter of motive. If the motive is to confront a brother in love about a continuing sin or continuing error, even the whole Matthew 18 procedure - right up to and including excommunication - is designed to be redemptive.

-R

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Pilgrim; I like the emphasis on motive. The next actions must be pure, and not prideful. Paul speaks to that also, that "delivering one to Satan" is about church discipline in lovingly desiring true repentance from somebody we still see as Christian, not just self-justifying punishment of another, the way the stoners took up stones against the prostitute. And not just punitive, as if shaming him as a form of simple punishment. Not sure, though, whether a correct motive speaks enough information to the correct "mode" of discipline....pure motive is not a license to be free in our conduct.

Robin: Good idea...that the notion be put out there as anonymous without the name. Rather reminds me of the time the Pastor was preaching without mentioning my name but kept looking at me....made me wonder "what? what'd I do?".

Certainly once the heretic goes public himself, the question ends. But so long as its still confidential, the question remains.

But I agree even more when you said that the approach should first be in private. In fact, I think it never needs to go to disobeying laws of confidentiality.

It is just regular old "church discipline" in my view. Imagine an elder board printing everybody's shortcoming issues from the last week in this week's bulletin, shaming them as a form of punishing them as a form of correcting them.

Shaming is ancient pagan practice of dealing with a heretic. The Greek dramas of "tragedy and comedy" were not about murders and joke-telling, they were about people losing their standing in society, good fortune to bad, the story of the mighty who had fallen. Comedy was the opposite. Whereas repentance and forgiveness restores the fallen, shaming is purely punitive. That is why it is taken as tragedy...it can not be undone without the efforts of the sinner. Once you are shamed, your pride must EARNED again. A sinner lead to repentance is forgiven and they are restored by those who forgave. A sinner lead into shame is purely outcast and is only restored by his own blood sweat and tears in regaining his pride. One is corrective, the other is punitive. One is freely given by others, the other charges a further price to the one already downcast.

Christian restoration was antithetical to the ancient Greeks. We sought to restore for free, they sought to shame with a price. Likewise, their heroes were the proud and mighty who earned it, ours were humble and lowly who deserved more.

For these reasons I think that releasing confidential information on a server to the public is wrong. The biblical NT model of confronting one on one privately is first upheld even inonline instances of heresy. And the whole point of it being just one on one is to avoid the risk of simply shaming them...it gives them a chance to avoid greater measures that may yet come to a more public issue. The individual should be invited discreetly aside, and confronted by his brother in a spirit of loving correction, and humility for we all make mistakes in matters of doctrine from time to time. If he persists, then the NT says two should go. And it is simply elevated.

Plopping the matter in front of everyone is not given permission anywhere until the congregation is required to deal with the situation. Even then, I do not find warrant to break the laws of the land... I do not believe it is necessary in order to conduct proper discipline in the Church, including in the body catholic.

This is what makes Luthers action of pounding his issues publicly into the door at Wittenberg so fascinating. It was exactly in the public domain he wanted his issues challenged! That is where he invited his opponents to meet him and there he would have opportunity to better disclose publicly their errors.

In the first one on one confrontation, I suggest a very simple question to the heretic be put, that if he will not recant and see the right way, then let him post his views publicly so they can be discussed there....bring him out into the open. What if he doesn't? Start a new thread opposing such views in public without naming him, see if that draws him out. At least if it draws out somebody else you will have opportunity to address him AS IF in public and make your Christian attempt to restore him. Meantime, take your second person and pay him another private "three strikes, buddy" visit. In the end if he won't accept, the moderator simply removes him on the condition that if he recants, he's forgiven and back in.

My two cents anyway.

-Barry


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The door of the church at Wittenburg was very much like a public "bulletin board" at a modern community center or post office. Doctor Luther's "pounding his notice publically to the church door" was not some unusual act of defiance, but merely the posting of a notice by a seminary professor requesting debate on those issues. Just say'n. It was an in-house notice requesting debate. Completely appropriate for the time and circumstances.

Not that this fact in any way diminishes your argument at all, Barry. It's just that I hear that twist on the story from time to time and I don't wish to have one of my heroes misunderstood. smile

-R

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Thanks Robin, that's good info still fairly on point....if we feel we have views at odds with the church and they matter to us, then there's good precedence that we should raise those publicly as an invitation to debate if we're convicted that it's true and it matters.

I think one of the important things this does is ensure that we don't leave our brethren in a difficult position of being exposed to heresy, as they may see it, and thire desire to avoid causing unnecessary shameful pain to us by exposing us. Bringing our ideas in the open, vs. cowering behind the back of orthodoxy (or any commonly held view of things) is a good thing. We all need time and space to develop ideas sometimes, especially when we simply need iron to sharpen our iron, but once Luther felt like he was ready he made things very public. Perhaps even if that had not been the common manner of the day, he would have done the same thing.

-Barry


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