Adrian Warnock reopens comments

It is more than three years ago that Adrian Warnock closed his blog to comments. I was very critical of this at the time. My main argument was that a blog without comments lacked any kind of accountability. In fact it was a monologue rather than a blog.

So I am very happy to see that Adrian has now switched comments on again on his blog. He is using a new Facebook comment system, which I guess is open only to Facebook members. We’ll have to see how that works in practice.

I hope Adrian doesn’t have the same problems with comment wars that caused him difficulties back in 2007. I will try to restrain myself from stoking up any such battles. But I do intend to start reading the blog again, and commenting from time to time.

I hope to remain friends with Adrian, and not just in the nominal Facebook sense. After all, I am much less critical of his thinking than I was having read, and reviewed, his excellent book Raised with Christ.

27 thoughts on “Adrian Warnock reopens comments

  1. Good news indeed: as you say, a site without a comments system really isn’t a blog, it’s just another static website. I came across another site using the fb comments system t’other day. Interesting idea but seems to lead to what are effectively decontextualised comments on facebook.

  2. Well, I welcome interaction. I always have! I just got fed up of the moderation and things like this spam bot catcher. I am hoping that facebook takes care of catching spam accounts. And that people will be aware that their facebook reputation (and if they are illegal, presumably even their account!) are at stake!

  3. Yes, good news. But I’m afraid I don’t like the Facebook comment system. See the comments I have tried to make on Adrian’s post, which appear in an order which seems random even if in fact it is the deliberate result of some deranged Facebook programmer’s algorithm.

  4. I’m certainly a fan of comments, but I still think it’s crazy to refuse to call it a blog if it doesn’t have comments. The word ‘blog’ is short for “weblog”. It’s a place where someone records a log for others to read. Some blogs developed comments, but it’s not part of the original concept of what a blog is. It’s certainly not a static website unless you never write any new posts.

    As for Facebook, it’s not Facebook that generates nested comments. Most blog formats nowadays can handle that, and Facebook actually can’t. All Facebook is doing is a login feature to ensure you have a real account and giving access to your picture so you can have an avatar. It’s not using the Facebook comment engine, or it wouldn’t be able to do the nested comments.

    There are pros and cons to nested comments. The biggest pro is that it allows you to see who is responding to which comments. The biggest con is that you can’t just look to the end to see what’s appeared since you last checked. The latter issue is decisive for me, so I don’t use them. I believe my blog’s software does allow them, but I’d prefer to have comments fully chronological, for ease of knowing what appeared in what order.

  5. Jeremy, I don’t want to go back over old arguments about what a blog is.

    I agree with you in disliking nested comments. Adrian’s Facebook ones are even worse in that even the non-nested ones appear in an unpredictable order, which means you have to scan them all to find the new ones. I think they may be more integrated into Facebook than you think, as each nest appears in Facebook as a comment with replies.

  6. Regardless of what you feel a weblog should be, when a church group makes all it’s blogs read only it tends to come across as being rather unwilling to listen to dissenting opinions.

  7. Indeed, Chris. Part of my original criticism of Adrian was linked to the general tendency of “Reformed” Christians to be unwilling to listen to dissenting opinions. I have seen plenty of evidence of that in the way that comments have been rejected on a number of blogs, including Adrian’s in the days when he allowed comment discussions. I am glad that he has at least to some extent dissociated himself from that unwillingness.

  8. Jeremy, I admit that my evidence could be considered anecdotal. But it seems to me that in five years of blogging almost the only blogs which I have seen rejecting comments from myself and from others that I know, except for obvious reasons such as libel and profanity, have been those of “Reformed” Christians.

  9. But that’s logically fallacious. Even if the first premise is true (which it surely is not), the conclusion certainly doesn’t follow.

    1. Only Reformed Christians deny comments by those they disagree with.
    2. Therefore, Reformed Christians have a general tendency to (i.e. all or most Reformed Christians are likely to) deny comments by those they disagree with.

    The most prominent Reformed blogger is probably Justin Taylor, and he allows all manner of comments he disagrees with, probably some he shouldn’t. I don’t think of myself as some kind of strange exception among the Reformed for wanting to engage in dialogue with those who disagree with me. In fact, from my experience, I tend to see Reformed bloggers as more willing to give both sides the credit of being well-thought-out, honest, and motivated by good, whereas when I see someone misrepresenting the other side it’s usually someone attributing some position to Calvinism that Calvinists don’t typically hold.

  10. Well, Jeremy, I could strengthen my statement to say that the majority of the “Reformed” bloggers I have had dealings with have at times rejected comments from those they disagree with. That resolves the logical fallacy. In that majority I include Justin Taylor, who has been guilty of this in the past. If he does not do that now (I don’t follow him regularly), then I am glad that he, like Adrian, has mended his ways.

    Yes, there are people who in their comments misrepresent the spectrum of Calvinist positions, and others who misrepresent Arminian and other positions. The proper response to such comments is not to reject them, but to correct the errors, if only briefly and with a link to a more accurate treatment.

  11. Justin Taylor doesn’t reject comments simply because he disagrees with them. He does sometimes reject comments if he thinks they’re especially inappropriate, and he sometimes closes a whole thread if it gets out. I’m not aware of cases where he has rejected a comment just because it expresses a non-Calvinist view, and I’ve seen plenty of comments on his blog that are highly critical of Calvinism.

    I agree with you that mere error is worth correcting, and so it’s best to leave it up and correct it. But some comments are so thoroughly inappropriate that I will not publish them, e.g. personal attacks.

  12. Jeremy, I agree that personal attacks should be rejected. And I could be wrong about Justin Taylor. I thought that Suzanne McCarthy had complained about him rejecting here comments. But all I can find now is a case when he ignored them, and that was five years ago. I did find, from 2007, Justin’s own musings on allowing comments.

    On reconsideration, I retract my admission of a logical fallacy. A tendency does not require a majority. If 30% of Reformed bloggers rejected comments they didn’t agree with but only 5% of other bloggers, that would still be a tendency. But I admitted that my evidence was only anecdotal i.e. statistically insufficient to prove a tendency.

  13. If Reformed bloggers as a whole reject comments at a higher rate than other bloggers, you can state a thesis about how they’re statistically more likely to reject comments they disagree with. But I don’t think 30% vs. 5% is enough to call it a tendency among Reformed bloggers. That tars the 70% who don’t do that with something only 30% do. I think you need something more than that for a genuine tendency, and I’d rather state it in a way that makes it clear that it’s a minority who do it.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that such a comment rejection rate might be explained by tendencies in the bloggers to be more willing to reject comments they disagree with, but it could equally well be explained by a greater tendency among opponents of Calvinism to submit comments that are more offensive, greater misrepresentations of those they disagree with, and so on. It might not be directly from a different tendency in the blogger.

    I wouldn’t rely on that particular occurrence with Suzanne, most importantly because it’s not about rejecting comments but rather about not responding to a comment. People with low comment traffic don’t have a clue what it’s like to get the kind of comment volume that high-comment blogs get. When I post at Evangel, there’s no way to keep up with all the comments. I try to respond to the most important things in my mind, and sometimes I have to leave important comments unaddressed. I’ll have several comment threads to keep track of, and often by the time I get back to one that I had something to say about I’ll discover that no one has been commenting for days, especially if real-life stuff prevents me from engaging in serious discussion.

    This is so even if I did have time to post something in a new post, which often doesn’t take as much effort and sometimes might have been written days earlier and held for posting so I didn’t have too many posts appearing at once. If I had a blog where all the posts generated that level of comments, I’m sure there would be plenty of times that I didn’t respond when I intended to. It’s happened to me on occasion, but that’s without the kind of traffic Justin gets.

    Besides, I’d expect he was probably right. Many egalitarians do not get complementarianism right when they portray it. I don’t know what thread Suzanne is talking about, because she refused to link to it in her post, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Justin had said something in her portrayal of complementarianism was wrong but had thought it would take a lot of effort to explain why. I’ve found myself saying the same thing to her over and over again, and this very post has plenty of misrepresentation in it.

    She completely misrepresents Justin’s position, saying he wants to subjugate women when he distinguishes between subjugation and the role differences he advocates. There are some CBMW members who think (a) gender roles apply to every relationship between a man and a woman and some who (b) restrict it to church leadership, preaching, and marital relationships. She claims the CMBW holds only view (a) when there are some who hold to each view. Then she confuses gender roles with sexual interaction and claims that the CBMW views every male-female relationship as sexual (i.e. every interaction involves outright sexual harassment) instead of taking position (a) to refer to role relationships that apply to every male-female relationship, which is about gender roles, not about actual sexual interplay, as she claims CBMW holds.

    She acts as if complementarians don’t see women as being sisters and of the same essence as men, even though it’s a defining feature of complementarianism that women and men are on an equal footing ontologically (which is what being fully sisters and having the same essence amount to). The disagreement is over whether that view is consistent with the gender role differences complementarians hold. Egalitarians think it is not. But it’s not fair to pretend that complementarians endorse differences in essence, because they explicitly don’t.

    There are some problems with some things Piper and Grudem say in their introduction, I’ll admit, but her portrayal of complementarians is consistently filled with false statements about what complementarians believe. It doesn\’t surprise me at all that Justin would recognize that and say so without having the time to explain in detail why.

  14. Jeremy, I don’t want to discuss here a particular issue that Suzanne had five years ago. I only mentioned this to retract my suggestion that Justin Taylor rejected comments without good reason. He may have done the best thing to ignore Suzanne.

    Then, it is too theoretical to discuss whether a minority can be a tendency when, as I noted before, I had seen this among a majority of the “Reformed” blogs I have read.

    You are right of course that in principle there could be other causes of the tendency I have observed, such as larger volumes of comments and more opposition with misrepresentation. I can assure you from my personal experience that it is not only “Reformed” bloggers who receive large numbers of offensive comments filled with misrepresentation. But I really don’t want to discuss this any more.

  15. As an alternative explanation to the “reformed christians stifle debate” hypothesis, you could argue that Adrian’s disabling of comments was symptomatic of the authoritarian style of leadership in New Frontiers churches. The leaders (who are only accountable to those higher up the food chain, not to the members) make the decisions and the members have to like it or lump it. The possibility that the leaders might be wrong is not an option in NFI, and if you don’t agree with the party line, you’re a rebel. Someone once said that they’re like the Japanese – exporting a lot and importing nothing. That sounds just like a comment-free blog to me.

    I might be mistaken, but wasn’t Peter a major factor in Adrian disabling comments – see http://www.gentlewisdom.org.uk/103/adrian-warnock-closes-his-blog-to-comments/ – I got the impression that Adrian didn’t like shortcomings in his views being challenged.

    But yes, it’s good that he’s turned comments back on.

  16. Peter, I just did a comment which may have got spam-filtered (if such a thing still exists with the captcha) – please can you check?

  17. Sidefall, sorry your first comment was caught as spam. I have retrieved it. Yes, quite a lot of spam gets through the captcha check, mostly looking like it is written by people who are only pretending to know English, and probably being paid for writing pseudo-comments and captcha words.

    Well, let’s examine the evidence that this phenomenon is more related to New Frontiers than to the Reformed movement in general. You may have a point. But I have seen the same attitude from other Reformed bloggers, whereas the other New Frontiers bloggers I follow don’t have the same attitude. I accept that I don’t have enough examples to prove this statistically.

    Anyway, I suspect that you misunderstand life in New Frontiers churches. I don’t think they have the kind of “heavy shepherding” approach whereby “The leaders … make the decisions and the members have to like it or lump it”, at least in matters outside the operation of church meetings. And not even all of their elders toe the party line.

  18. Thanks Peter, I bet the link trigged the spam filter.

    What evidence is there that not all NFI elders tow the party line? I don’t think they’d stay elders for very long if they didn’t accept the instructions from on high.

    I wasn’t suggesting that they are into “heavy shepherding”, which is generally understood to be where leaders exercise detailed control over members lives. That was discredited as abusive years ago, although interestingly there are frequent accusations of it in SGM churches, an american network that has many similarities to NFI and enjoys close relations with them.

    All I was saying was that members of NFI churches have no formal or final say in who their leaders are or the decisions that their leaders make. The philosophy is that you trust the leaders, do what they say, and believe what they tell you to believe. So, for example, on gender roles, there cannot be any genuine and open discussion about whether there is more support for complementarianism or egalitarianism in the Bible. You saw what happened when you tried to question their official position – dissent was silenced.

  19. Individuals can vary in the policy they apply to their blog – but for a long time the ‘main’ NFI outlets were all comment free.

  20. Thank you, Chris. I can see why a top leader like Terry Virgo wants a “blog” to present his thoughts to his followers, rather than for discussion. As for Confluence, it seems very strange to me that this should in fact be a monologue when it claims to be

    a place where the reformed, the charismatic, and the mission-minded converge …

    But that may indeed be the Reformed mindset.

  21. Pingback: God isn't a "vicious tormenter": Rob Bell's blasphemy? - Gentle Wisdom

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