On Getting Hijacked

It is too easy to derail an important discussion:

No, I have never been hijacked – at least not by pirates on the high seas, or by terrorists on an airplane somewhere in the Middle East. But I have far too often been hijacked in what I am trying to do and what I am trying to say.

That is, either on my own website, or on the social media, or in public talks, the message I am trying to share will often get hijacked and derailed by those who are intent on pushing their own particular agendas. I guess it is a risk of any public speaker or anyone who goes on interactive media.

And it certainly is a risk if you have an interactive website where people can send in comments. So too with the social media where you can post something and all sorts of folks with all sorts of replies can come back at you. So hijacking will always be a very real possibility in those circumstances.

Having been involved in all these activities for some decades now, I know all about hijacking and attempted hijackings. Happens all the time sadly. In fact, it has happened so often that I find myself routinely having to tell folks that I hope they will not continue to let it happen on some posts of mine.

For example, I will write an article on some biblical and theological theme, and a brief mention may arise of something I know tends to be rather controversial. So I will often say that I know this particular point is debatable, and can be hotly contested, but it is not my real emphasis here, so can we move on and not get bogged down in yet another interminable debate over such matters.

This is especially the case when I am writing a devotional piece which I am hoping and praying will touch people’s hearts and souls, draw them closer to God, and bring glory to God. In such pieces I really am not too keen to have someone come along and derail the post, and go off on some pet theological peeve, especially if it is not really germane to my article.

When it is my hope that people will be drawn closer to the Lord, and that God will be glorified, it can be quite disappointing when folks seem to miss the whole point of my piece. They miss the spirit of what I am trying to do. It seems they are not in step with the Spirit, but have an argumentative spirit which Scripture so often warns against.

Sure, if I write a piece on something that is doctrinally important as well as somewhat controversial, I expect debate, I expect some argument, I expect some pushback. That would be an appropriate place for such debates. So yes, normally folks can debate all they like in that case.

But so often I feel the Lord wants me to share some important matter to help us love and obey God more, and full-blown theological bunfights are the last thing on my mind. Yet almost inevitably someone will come along wanting to pick a fight and take the conversation away from where I was heading.

And sometimes it gets even worse: when folks start some big theological debate that actually is a bit off topic, and I step in and politely request that they take it elsewhere, sometimes they will get angry with me. Or they will rather foolishly claim that I am trying to ‘censor’ them or stifle debate.

Um no. I am simply trying to maintain a bit of oversight and control over my own website, or on my social media pages. I need not allow everyone who wants to come along and pick a fight, or take offence when none was intended, or seek to hijack what I was trying to say.

But I have written about such matters before, as in this piece: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2019/07/17/on-theological-pugilism-christian-maturity-and-humility/

The idea that I am seeking some sort of argument-free zone on my site or elsewhere is rather silly. Indeed, it would well-nigh be impossible given the interactive nature of what I do, and all controversial topics I regularly deal with. I have never said, “No arguments allowed.” But I have said, “No trolls allowed.”

What I have said from time to time – and especially in certain posts and articles – is that I do not want things getting hijacked or derailed. I want the main message that I am trying to share to get through, certainly when I am presenting an important devotional point or spiritual exhortation.

But that can too easily get lost or overlooked when some folks come along with their favourite pet theologies. They are itching to push their fav theological point of view, or quick to rebuke someone else who dares to differ. Again, there is a time and a place for that. But when it moves us away from where I – and hopefully God – is trying to take us, then it is quite distracting and unappreciated.

I am far more concerned that folks are encouraged, challenged and stirred by God through something I have written than to have yet another theological debate breaking out over some secondary doctrinal area. I am not sure why people feel they must push their pet peeves, especially when these debates have been beaten to death already, and there are kazillions of sites where people can argue to their heart’s content on such issues.

I prefer that folks go to the heart of what I am trying to say, and not allow my pieces to get taken in unnecessary and diversionary directions. So let that be my friendly word of advice to you. Yes, feel free to come and discuss things, maybe debate things, and even strongly disagree with things at times.

Image of 2 Timothy & Titus (Reformed Expository Commentaries)
2 Timothy & Titus (Reformed Expository Commentaries) by Phillips, Richard D. (Author), Doriani, Daniel M. (Author) Amazon logo

But not every time is the right time, and not every place is the right place. A bit of discernment, a bit of humility, and a bit of Christian grace will take us all far here in these matters. In closing, let me look at just one passage on this. Second Timothy 2:22-26 says this:

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

In verse 14 he has said similar things, that God’s people are “not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.” And here he deals with those who are in error. He says of them that they are in need of repentance, and that they are ensnared by the devil.

The point I wish to make here is that sometimes (not always) those who keep coming to argue with you or derail what you are saying may be in this camp. They may be sinning, led by the enemy, and in need of repentance. That is how serious this can be at times.

Sure, there is nothing amiss in legitimate discussion, debate and even disagreeing with others theologically. But so often we are warned about arguing and quarrelling and picking fights. So great care is needed here. One quote to address this passage will suffice to bring this piece to a close. In their new expository commentary Doriani and Phillips say this about the passage:

The visible church has been plagued by quarrels for two millennia. Disputatious members love the grinding sound of their critical voices. Craving status and attention, critics have tried to wear down God-appointed leaders from Moses to Jesus to Paul.

Debates are foolish and vain if they bring no glory to God and offer no direction to man, or if they draw distinctions that make no difference. Calvin commented that a doctrinal discussion is useless if it does not edify, for Scripture is profitable. Therefore, he said, we should leave “fruitless questions” and “empty speculations,” and “meditate upon those things that make for edification.”

[1393 words]

10 Replies to “On Getting Hijacked”

  1. Hi Bill, I really feel for you. I personally have been greatly enriched when studying the articles you’ve published. I’m sure that I’m not alone in commending you for all the research and effort you put in. Bill please keep “dishing it out”, because I for one want to be continually challenged in my preconceptions. AND I WANT TO KEEP LEARNING!!
    Bless you heaps Bill, regards Kel.

  2. Hear Hear – Bill Mick & Kevin say it all. I love what you do, your grace, patience and diligence in the doing.
    Hey – I’m only 64 and I need chastising regularly – What better place than CultureWatch.
    It would be like both arms amputated if you & your site ceased to exist.
    Bring it on stronger and stronger
    Mark Bryant

  3. Hello Bill, you are, really, tooooo kind! The type of people you are referring to here will not go away…especially if they believe they are getting to you.
    Those who follow your writings and understand your ministry (gifting) simply ignore the naysayers and are encouraged to pray, delve further into scripture, and press into the Lord.
    Press on Brother, we are with you!
    Ron Adams

  4. Hi Brother Bill.

    I personally love and appreciate the gift God has given you. I am challenged and edified by your offerings and reminded to be as prayerful and careful as I can be in my responses to others.

    I’ve known people who possess a morbid obsession with debate and argument. They are not a joy to be with and do not edify! I find people like this simply draining.

    This is your platform Bill. Perhaps those desiring to hijack your intended messages should get their own.

    Thank you for all you do – I’ve been greatly encouraged and blessed by you this year! God bless you Bill.

  5. Thanks for an insightful and timely article Bill. Its so easy to get caught up with arguing with people on the internet. Personally it gets to me how the leftie open borders brigade abuse Christianity and our Christian leaders.

    But its a waste of time trying to engage with them.

  6. I understand your protecting your page Bill, I really do, but as you have also said, is that when you put those articles out there, it will raise questions and thoughts on the subject. However, from my side, I have on many occasions asked you questions or are thought on something and you have never replied which does tend to leave me very much in the dark. The devil loves its when we are left in the dark. I think when you put articles out especially of are controversial nature there are going to be those who will want to abuse or steal the show, but there are also going to be those with questions and thoughts on the subject, however you do have control over this page by not publishing certain responses. So for the most part the comments I have seen, and I honestly enjoy reading them also (wisdom in many counselors) bless’s me also. I have often followed leads they have given to certain articles. I mentioned this the last time I commented and still no response from you. I use to read your articles every day, not so much now, as I do enjoy interaction. I have also donated to your page. Still I imagine you must get so much responses that mine must get lost along the way. However having said all of that I do understand where you are coming from, however from my prospective, I think (especially in times like this) interaction is needed from our brothers and sisters in the Lord, or else there are those like myself will turn to the world for that interaction. I am are mature Christian so I do it wisely with the knowledge and wisdom I already have, however for those who are not, well not so good. As for myself I have found it very challenging and rewarding to actually interact with the non Christians. I have discovered that you can actually with the right words and knowledge reach people for the Lord on line. So I thank you for that, I really do, and you are right in that to to reach out to other Christians is so, so hard, many think they know it all, (so your task is certainly harder which I appreciate) so I chose to go to the worldly people and challenge them, because they need to be reminded that we have are God that we can turn to and many are in fear right now. There is are harvest out there ready for the picking and you can do it from the safety of your own home. With the knowledge and wisdom you have you should try it Bill. Maybe the same could be said of when we expect the church to get out of their buildings and go out into the world and reach people for Christ, we can also get out of our own facebook pages and reach out into other worldly peoples or group facebook pages to see what they believe, think and are feeling. As the old saying goes “Head knowledge killeth, so maybe it is time to unload some of it to those who actually need it. If Mohammad/non-Christians won’t come to the mountain (Christian/Churches facebook pages) let the mountain go to Mohammad (their facebook pages). Let’s face it most of our knowledge comes from the written word in the first place. The letters in the word bless me the most. God is so good. I have learnt to let go, and let God. God bless you Bill, you certainly have blessed me in ways you will never know. I hope you read this one. Love Ingrid

  7. Thanks Ingrid. First, my apologies if I have not answered all your queries. To be honest, with so many comments coming in, and life being so incredibly busy, I may not always read every single word of every single comment, so I may have missed some questions along the way. Apologies again.

    But a few more things can be said about that if I may. Having an interactive website with 5400 articles and well over 130,000 comments (78,000 of them published) makes for a full-time job – and then some! Thus as a mere mortal I simply cannot reply to everyone or enter into every single discussion and debate. Perhaps if I never ate, slept, walked the dogs, or interacted with anyone else – including my wife – then I might be able to give everyone the full and proper responses that they may deserve! So you were correct to say “you must get so much responses that mine must get lost along the way”. That would be true of not just you of course but of others. Once more, my apologies. Maybe if I had 48 hours in the day, I could do better in this regard! So please bear with me, forgive me, and keep me in your prayers.

    And as I said, there is a place for genuine debate and the asking of honest questions. That is not what I was being critical of in my article. My beef had to do with those who are either trolls or argumentative types or rather fleshly believers who just like to argue, go off on a tangent, and push their pet peeves. When those sorts of actions derail the main intent (and often spiritual intent) of an article, that is when it is undesirable, and when I have to say a firm “no”. But again, that is a far cry from those who have legitimate questions or want to explore things further.

    Thanks again for your thoughts and kind words.

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