Say what you mean without being mean


Better Bibles Blog is a great place for quality conversation.


In doing some research for this post I was amazed at what some blogs have to put up with. Here at Better Bibles Blog, we may have to deal with the occasional irate commenter but some blogs are constantly flooded with rage, obscenity, SPAM and sales pitches.

As I look through the Posting Guidelines for this blog, a lot of it can be summarized as, “Be polite.” Everyone writing and reading this blog is a real person (I think) and we are all busy with jobs and family and IRL (In Real Life) responsibilities. BBB provides us all a chance to talk about some really interesting topics. Just be nice, OK? Each author is responsible for moderating the posts he writes. But if you have something that’s bugging you, you can email Wayne or me directly (See our profiles for our addresses).

More than “Be polite,” you can summarize our Posting Guidelines with “Say what you mean without being mean.” Don’t beat around the bush. Politely tell us exactly what you think. List your reasons, back up your position and let us have it.

The current post Rom 4:1 is a good example of this. There are currently more than fifty comments. And few of them are less than a paragraph. Lots of people are thinking out loud and battling it out over how best to translate this passage. Iver’s post is about 1,1oo words long. That’s a little longer than an average post. But check out those comments! Currently over 11,000 words. That’s ten times the length of the original post.

That ratio makes us very happy. We want our posts to promote discussion. Peter, and Dannii and Mike and the rest all have their opinions but we’re happy to hear opposing viewpoints as long as you’re nice about it and back up your claims with solid evidence.

This morning I had the word “dialectic” in my head. Dialectic is different from debate. A debate pits two opposing sides against each other to argue out a point and then someone decides who won. Dialectic has a much more modest aim. In dialectic, two parties with differing ideas get together to discuss a topic. From the start I think there is an assumption that neither one is going to convert the other but that through their interaction they’ll better understand the topic, be better able to articulate their position, and also appreciate opposing viewpoints. A personal example that comes to mind for me is my long-standing “feud” with John Hobbins over Bible translation styles. We have argued for years over how Bible translations should be done and neither of us has been won over to the other side. But I have learned a lot through the process. And (don’t let him know I said this) he’s converted me on quite a number of occasions.

What’s your take on the exchanges that take place in the comment threads of this blog? Too hot? Too long? Too good to miss?

If you were describing Better Bibles Blog to someone who had never heard of it, how would you describe it?

13 thoughts on “Say what you mean without being mean

  1. Peter Kirk says:

    Each author is responsible for moderating the posts he writes.

    “… they write”, or “he or she writes”, please, for the sake of Dannii, and in the past Suzanne.

    Everyone writing and reading this blog is a real person (I think)

    I’m sure lots of bots are also reading this.

  2. Sue says:


    According to Dannii’s facebook profile he is a male in a relationship and according to the Sydney Anglicans he believes in a male God.


  3. Sue says:

    Okay perhaps that was too much information. I didn’t realize that I had recently been unblocked from posting. Sorry bout that.

  4. Gary Simmons says:

    I caught the “he” earlier, but chose not to comment. Interesting that it took until today for someone to request an emendation. Apparently the generic “he” is still unconsciously considered natural even by some linguists, even if more often one exerts the conscious effort to use a neutral syntax.

    Consider the can o’ worms opened! Back to discussing naturalness in language.

    But in all seriousness: I think that guideline summary (the post title) is quite sufficient. In all honesty, I have described this site to friends as a place to check out. I’m sure a few of my friends have taken a look at some of the posts, though nobody I know comments here.

    I would describe this site as a reasonably well-moderated discussion board for handling translation issues. Though translation of religious text can’t be fully separated from theology and interpretation (or can it?), I believe the authors of this site do an excellent job of preparing posts that set an environment for engaging a productive and beneficial discussion.

    However, I believe the comment threads tend to be of lower quality than the posts themselves. Sometimes this is due to rabbit trails or ignoring the caritas in the guidelines.

    But also: I don’t care to see an ad nauseam list of quotes in one Asian language or another, or in classical Greek, however interesting that may be.

    Perhaps we should also make a point of asking interlocutors to be courteous about which languages they use and what most of the other interlocutors can follow? I propose that English, Hebrew, Greek, and German are basically on the table, as are other Indo-European languages. I do not wish to minimize the value of Eastern languages — So dayo! — but entire discussions should not be carried out on the basis of a language which only two interlocutors are likely to be familiar with.

    Kurk Gayle — I’m thinking of you specifically with this. I do not mean to diminish you or single you out in a negative way. The fact is, you just run semantic circles around me and I can’t keep up!

    Note: I’m not saying I have to understand every text discussed, but by all means it isn’t fair to leave out most interlocutors with a multi-comment discussion of Chinese in which only two commenters take part.

  5. Dannii says:

    Sue while you’re right I’m a guy I’m not sure how the Sydney Anglicans are relevant to me or this topic.

  6. Sue says:

    Apparently the generic “he” is still unconsciously considered natural even by some linguists, even if more often one exerts the conscious effort to use a neutral syntax.


    Dave Ker knows that all authors at the Better Bibles Blog are now male, so you cannot draw this conclusion.


    I apologize for making your views regarding the gender of God public. I googled your name along with “male.” A random piece of information popped up.

    Perhaps you don’t know that my former congregation in Vancouver was led by a Sydney Anglican, and was deeply influenced in that direction, which is why I follow that forum in the first place.

    I am not sure whether this information about you is relevant or not, and I honestly thought that my comments were still moderated so I was surprised to see my comment be posted right away. I did not intend to be mean about it.

    However, I do think that our views regarding the gender of God are among the most important discussions that have come out of this blog in the past. I hope you do not feel that I have revealed some personal information that you think should not be known to readers of this blog. I am very sorry if that is the case.

  7. Sue says:

    Just for the sake of transparency, I am a fan of the work of David E. S. Stein on this topic. He writes,

    “The term ’elohim does not require that its referent be male. As a common-gender (“epicene”) noun, it can refer to either a male or a female deity. In this passage it is a status term; like “pharaoh,” that status can be taken by either a man or a woman. As such, the gender inflections of verbs and adjectives would be expected to follow the semantic orientation (social gender) of the occupant.” On Beyond Gender.

  8. Dannii Willis says:

    Sue, no worries, it’s public info. I just thought it was a strange comment. I didn’t know you were at St. John’s. Were you also previously in a brethren church?

    And I think it would be good to have more bloggers, of both genders!

  9. Sue says:

    Hi Dannii,

    Yes, I was at St. Johns and I remember when Paul Barnett came to give summer seminars and spend time at Regent. I think overall he supported Dr. Packer in his views of gender and Bible translation.

    And yes, I was raised in the Brethren. It made a lasting impression in many good ways, in the emphasis on meditation and quietness, in the focus on congregational participation and reading the scripture and less emphasis on sermons.

    Of course, the gender issue was highly problematic, but ultimately I felt that at St. John’s, which went from egalitarian to complementarian while I was there – well it even more discouraging.

    I don’t think that there is room for female bloggers in the bibliosphere, Dannii. This is my honest opinion. I always feel uncomfortable around those who say that you can’t go to heaven unless you refer to God as male, or a woman can’t go to heaven if she does not believe in obeying her husband, and all that stuff. These may sound like hypothetical statements, but they are part of my experience.

    I really enjoyed the two years I blogged here, but it couldn’t last. Unless the functional equality of women is vigourously defended, women are better off elsewhere.

  10. Gary Simmons says:

    Re: “Each author is responsible for moderating the posts he writes.”

    Sue: You’re right; I was mistaken. I somehow interpreted this sentence as applying also to commenters. Obviously, since the sentence specifies post authors, that isn’t the case.


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