Larry Hurtado is an eminent scholar of Christian origins. He has made a strong contribution to the world of biblical blogging in the last two years. His recent post about groundrules for comments on his blog is spot on. He makes the following invitation to potential commenters: “if all you want to do is vent your pet view, and aren’t interested in engaging the data, learning from those with the expertise in the subject (which can certainly involve asking for the reasons for a given view), then I politely invite you to go elsewhere.”
To be sure, beyond blocking the comments of proven delinquents, the most one can do is encourage commenters to put themselves in that vulnerable location in which respectful dialogue can take place and learning occur. This is what scholars ask of fellow scholars. It is what teachers ask of students. It is what students have a right to expect from teachers.
Finally, it is a reasonable expectation that one’s life and one’s thought cohere at some level. Contradictions between life and thought are a legitimate topic of discussion. The discussion of real and apparent contradictions at the intersection of the personal and the ideological are a staple of honest conversation. But if perceived contradictions in someone else’s thought and life are fair game for you, then you must be ready to respond to discussion of perceived contradictions in your point of view at the intersection of life and thought.
This blog has had over 1 million six hundred thousand page views and 15,000 comments in five or six years of activity. I have never been able to keep up with the number of requests for help, the number of friendships, and the number of discussions my blogging has fomented to date. This is the most serious challenge a blogger who blogs with fervor is likely to face. That said, I am happy to belong to a community of bloggers and commenters who share a commitment to groundrules of the kind Hurtado outlines.