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Censoriousness: The Besetting Sin of Bloggers

May 27, 2006

Censoriousness?! What’s that?

censorious – Tending to censure; highly critical.

Jonathan Edwards wrote in “Thoughts on the Revival”,

The word of God, which is in itself sharper than any two-edged sword, ought not to be sheathed by its ministers, but so used that its sharp edges may have their full effect, even to the dividing asunder soul and spirit, joints and marrow. Yet they should do it without judging particular persons, leaving it to conscience and the Spirit of God to make the particular application.

But all their conversation should savour of nothing but lowliness and good-will, love and pity to all mankind; so that such a spirit should be like a sweet odour diffused around them wherever they go. This would have no tendency to prevent the awakening of men’s consciences, but on the contrary would have a very great tendency to awaken them. It would make way for the sharp sword to enter; it would remove the obstacles, and make a naked breast for the arrow.

Yea, the amiable Christ-like conversation of such ministers in itself, would terrify the consciences of men, as well as their terrible preaching; both would co-operate to subdue the hard, and bring down the proud heart. If there had been constantly and universally observable such a behaviour as this in itinerant preachers, it would have terrified the consciences of sinners ten times as much as all the invectives and the censorious talk there has been concerning particular persons, for their opposition, hypocrisy, delusion, pharisaism, &c.

These things in general have rather stupefied sinners’ consciences; they take them up, and make use of them as a shield, wherewith to defend themselves from the sharp arrows of the word that are shot by these preachers. The enemies of the present work have been glad of these things with all their hearts. Many of the most bitter of them are probably such as in the beginning of this work had their consciences something galled and terrified with it; but these errors of awakening preachers are the things they chiefly make use of as plasters to heal the sore that was made in their consciences.

Spiritual pride takes great notice of opposition and injuries that are received, and is apt to be often speaking of them, and to be much in taking notice of their aggravations, either with an air of bitterness or contempt. Whereas pure and unmixed Christian humility, disposes a person rather to be like his blessed Lord, when reviled, dumb, not opening his mouth, but committing himself in silence to him that judgeth righteously. The eminently humble Christian, the more clamorous and furious the world is against him, the more silent and still will he be; unless it be in his closet, and there he will not be still.

Want more? Here’s a section from Edwards’ “Love, The Sum of All Virtue”.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 28, 2006 7:46 am

    “but these errors of awakening preachers are the things they chiefly make use of”

    I didn’t understand this part. Is an “awakening preacher” an “itinerant preacher” as referenced in paragrpah 3? If not, what is an “awakening preacher?”

    I remember vaguely from history class that several of the revivals were called “Awakenings.” But I always thought the label was applied after the occurance. Did people at that time actually refer to their own time period as an “awakening?”

    I wonder what it would be like to walk around this town in the midst of an awakening? And would we know it? And would knowing it increase our thanksgiving, increase our joy, increase our enjoyment of God and each other? Or would we merely miss it when it was gone, like so many other good things the Lord gives us…

  2. May 28, 2006 9:01 am

    Yes, awakening preachers are those who preached during the awakening. Many of them were itinerant. The awakening spread as people went from one church to another testifying to the work God was doing.

    It’s the most exciting history I’ve ever read. If you want more, there is a short “prequel” to “Thoughts on the Revival” called “A Narrative of Surprising Conversions”. Then his most mature theological reflection on the history is “Religious Affections”

    Yes, the people of the time used the term “awakening”. But they probably didn’t self-apply the label “Great Awakening”. It was still too early to tell. You can’t ever really judge a revival until 30 years later. So said Edwards himself in “Thoughts”

    Also highly recommended as theological history is “Revival and Revivalism” by Iain Murray. It actually begins in 1750, just after the Great Awakening, and goes on through the end of the Second Great Awakening.

  3. May 30, 2006 4:14 pm

    having not studied this yet…am I right in understanding the Second Great Awakening wasn’t so Great?

  4. May 30, 2006 10:27 pm

    It started Great, but then Finney “milked it for a few extra years” (spinal tap reference) see the Murray book.

  5. June 11, 2006 11:10 pm

    I think the tendancy to use the mind for “bad” instead of “good” is probably universal…

    maybe even international…

    [The opening credits display: “Universal-International presents This Island Earth”.]

    Mike says to his robots: Doesn’t the fact that it’s universal make it international?

    Getting back to the real point… (ok, no more MST3K quotes)

    CS Lewis writes beautifully about the good characters, as well as the bad. Most authors can write really well about the bad guys, but good guys are harder for us to imagine, to put interesting details into. It is as though we are hard-wired to think negatively. Many other books I read go into great detail about the bad guys, and more often than not, the bad guy is really the main character, because he is soooooo much more interesting than the lame-o obligatory good guy. The author simply can’t make the “good” as interesting as the “bad.”

    Two authors stand out in my mind: Tolkien and Lewis. Both of these men excel in making the good guys as intriguing and wonderfully interesting as the bad guys are grotesque and scary. Either they were gifted (which of course they were) or they had trained their minds to think away from the censorious and the ugly out into the uncharted territory of the terribly beautiful and fascinating. It is likely a combination of both…

    Bravo to these men.

    It is actually men like these that convince me I have nothing really to say. How can I write in their shadow? I would rather sit and read in their shadow, actually…

    Lewis said that his “Screwtape Letters” was surprisingly easy to write, but the most emotionally disturbing to write as well. In it he writes a first person account of a Head Demon training a lesser demon in the arts of temptation of a new Christian. It is creepy, and insightful, and witty, but it is one of my least favorite Lewis fiction books.

    The Space Trilogy, on the other hand, is one of my super-duper favorites of all time. Books 1 & 2 to be exact. A person from our world gets to see other worlds that are not “fallen,” not “cursed,” not “groaning” waiting to be delivered from the ravages of sin. These worlds are extraordinary, fascinating, painfully beautiful, and I bet when he wrote of them, he came away much more edified, although I don’t know for sure.

    So anyway, to get back on topic, I don’t think censoriousness is a condiiton limited to bloggers, because the literature we humans tend to produce is about 99% censorious…

    I think censorious is just our natual habitat.

    Fozzy Bear sighs, “A bear in his natural habitat…

    a Studebaker.”

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