Why I Cite Specific People, Books, and Sermons

December 26, 2018 · 959 words · 5 minute read Citations   Academic Integrity   Truth   Love   Questions  

In the near future, I will be publishing articles which are asking some difficult questions about specific practices within Christianity and Protestantism. In doing so, I will be citing specific examples from sermons, books, and other blog posts which I find difficult to understand (or simply incorrect). In this article, I describe why I think it is important to cite specific examples of the problems we are observing and how to do it in a way that is edifying and loving.

Update (Summer 2020)

In the past, I have cited specific examples (usually youtube clips) of issues and concerns I have with evangelicalism. I am no longer going to do this and have taken down mosts of my posts containing links to statements made by pastors. I do not object to the reasons for citing specific examples as detailed below and I see the merits of doing so, but I am unable to maintain a humble, gentle, peaceful heart when I cite specific examples, so I will no longer be doing so (at least not on a regular basis).

The Challenge

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love."1

The challenge I’m facing is this: I have numerous questions about Christianity and Protestantism. These questions are not, in my estimation and the thinking of thoughtful friends with whom I engage, inconsequential or periphery; they are foundational, epistemological, and methodological questions that have a significant bearing on my everyday life. I want to articulate these questions and this blog is one of the primary means of doing so, but it is easy to be misunderstood on the internet and it is equally easy to slip into the zeitgeist of the internet age where everyone2 is either sarcastic, mean, or lacking nuance and philosophical distinction. In short, I want to write clear, thoughtful articles that communicate my questions without coming across as mean or subversive.

To communicate clearly, I think I must reference specific examples from books, blogs, movies, sermons, etc. to prove and demonstrate what I am talking about. Because it is so easy for such direct references to be misunderstood, this blog post lays out my objectives for using primary source material and sets some principles to which I will try to hold myself accountable. Here goes…

Objectives - Why use primary source material?

So why do I regularly cite books, blog posts, videos, sermons, etc? There are many reasons, but I’ll provide at least three:

  1. To show the prevalence of a view. - When I critique a Pastor’s use of the Old Testament without citing specific examples, I often hear things like: “No one actually uses the Old Testament like that” or “My pastor would never use the Old Testament that way”. My goal in citing specific sermons in which the Old Testament is flagrantly misused is to show that people actually do use the Old Testament like that and your pastor probably would use the Old Testament that way in certain situations. Not trying to be mean; just driving home the prevalence of the problem.
  2. To avoid using straw-men. - I try to frequently cite specific, primary source material because this keeps me accountable to deal with what the person actually believes and not just a Straw man.
  3. To edify the body of Christ. - With Ephesians 4:15 in mind, my primary objective in citing primary source material and writing these blog posts is to help mature the body of Christ one mind at a time (especially including my own mind).

Methods - How will I use primary source material?

So how am I going to use primary source material in my blog posts? Here are five principles that will guide my use of source material:

  1. Be humble. - In citing what I perceive to be the shortcomings of another person, I am not under the delusion that I am free from errors (even the same errors which I criticize). I will use primary source material humbly, recognizing that I too have many areas in which I need to grow.
  2. Be positive. - To best help the body of Christ grow and mature, I will always be sure to provide guidelines and principles for how to fix a problem and how we can do something better in the future.
  3. Be open to correction. - As I critique others, I will always be open and soliciting feedback and correction. I do not have everything figured out and I make mistakes too.
  4. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.3 - When addressing the errors of another person, I will try not to over-react. One error does not discredit everything a person has done. There are different types of errors and different reasons errors occur, so it is wrong to say that because someone is wrong on one issue, they can’t be trusted on any issues.
  5. Speaking the truth… - Taking a hint from Ephesians 4:15, I will seek to speak the truth (which is, in part, contained in Scripture4) and to not get bogged down in falsehood.
  6. Speaking the truth in love - Again from Ephesians 4:15, I will seek to communicate lovingly and motivated by love5.

In keeping with the spirit of this blog post, feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments, or feedback.