Monday, October 19, 2009

Hive Faith?

“A prudent man conceals knowledge,
but the heart
of fools proclaims folly.” (Pr. 12:23)

The post “Which Protocol Would Jesus Use?” made use of the cover from Mark Helprin’s book, “Digital Barbarism” in connection with qualms about blogging as a method for constructive Christian interchange. This post will make use of some of the book’s content to expand on that a bit:

Mr. Helprin’s book is a defense of copyright, but the deeper defense is of individual rights and responsibilities where the written word is concerned. Over against this, he is concerned to attack a movement which defends what it calls the “Creative Commons” (or even, from one adherent, the “Hive Mind”) and which sees copyright as inhibiting this.

To see how something of this sort might work, let’s suppose that Jailer, instead of starting a blog called “The Philippian Jailer”, had decided to establish what’s called a “wiki” site which would have as its purpose a “common” effort to state just what the Christian Faith is, and what Christians believe. He might have toyed with the notion of calling it “Wikicredia”, or, finding domain name problems (and certainly is taken) he might have tried “Credimus” (for “we believe”). With the site set up, he might have put some sort of credal skeleton out there, and then thrown the matter open. If he had been able to get enough interest, the “hive” might have begun to buzz and, day-by-day, the world might have been amazed and astounded at the current, “common” statement of what it had thought to be “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). To use an image painfully familiar to many Bible-study leaders, think of “my idea of God”, electronically multiplied.

Of course, Jailer would never do this because he’d feel responsible for the result, which would almost certainly be awful. And one big reason that it would be so awful is that he might well be the only person in sight who would feel any responsibility. A “wiki” site can lend itself to some pretty exotic and extravagant stuff, without most of the participants having to own up to having had any part in it. And, if they did own up to it, most of the time they could do so with the understanding that it was just “off the top”, without really thinking things through, and the idea was for the “hive” to produce something creative from many spontaneous contributions. So individual responsibility ought not to have really been an issue. The whole thing would have been a common creative exercise!

Mr. Helprin is properly aghast at this sort of thing, which seems to show that it’s been too long since he participated in a university indoctrination. One hopes that the readers of this blog would also be aghast. But the question would still remain: While nowhere near as subject to abuse as the hypothetical “wiki” site, doesn’t a blog have some tendencies in that direction? One can make comments anonymously. Even if not, one can hide a bit behind “handles” like “Presbyter”. But the most serious danger is probably the temptation to speak without reflection. An important lesson from Proverbs is that this sort of expression is associated with folly, and does not become believers.