Thursday, December 17, 2009

SI Survey, “SAYS…

The pseudo-fundamentalist Sharper Iron blog has been conducting a fact-finding survey. SI has suffered huge losses in membership, dwindling participation in its threads and has been publishing appeals for funds to cover financial shortfalls. If it wasn’t for the SI moderators accounting for the lion’s share of thread commentary the site would very possibly grind to a halt. With these and other issues in view SI publisher Aaron Blumer is looking for some way to rejuvenate SI, encourage participation and attract advertisers.

In Blumer’s first survey update (posted 12/17) he reveals some of the current survey results and general commentary from some who have participated in the survey. Among other comments the following were included:
…It is apparent to me that being too honest on this site is not generally welcome by the new publisher and owner. BTW, the site has noticeably deteriorated in the past year in debate quality and thought-provoking information provided. Hence, even though I have considered posting, I have resisted. And to further clarify FYI, I do consider myself a historic fundamentalist even though I share a YF view.”

You’re talking about censorship, you have moderators deciding who is ill-informed, and personal bias often gets involved, SI has a history of allowing non-Fundamentalists to join.”

In the past there were times when accusations and slander against individuals being discussed was permitted; I haven’t seen it in a while.”

It also seems like (especially in the Filings sidebar) that this blog is turning into one of those ‘watchblogs’ where all we like to do is talk about the evil in the apostate churches and the unregenerate world and get all excited about how terrible it all is. Why is that so exciting?”

While this survey might be helpful to you, the horse left the barn. You already lost virtually every non-Calvinist, balanced Fundamentalist. You have little idea how many have been driven away by your hosting, backing and running interference for Bauder. You aren’t going get any one back and the rest aren’t going to join SI as it is still moving toward evangelicalism and promoting those views and practices. You’re too late! No one believes SI can be returned to a balanced, biblical Fundamentalism because under Janz it never was in the first place and is still moving away under Blumer. You’re too late!”

For the balance of this article I will excerpt a selction of comments from the discussion thread under the survey update.
I was surprised that only 44% (total) claimed to be either 4 or 5 point Calvinists (I am a 4). Reading the posts, one would think that it would be more like 85%!”
Agreed, because about all SI has left on its rolls are those who are Calvinistic in their theology.
I also think SI should advertise itself as a “Fundamentalist/Conservative Evangelical” site to attract more participation.
SI had been advertising itself a place for *Fundamentalists of the “conservative” evangelical variety. Even before that transparent disclosure SI had long since made it clear that is was very fond of and biased toward the “conservative” evengelical camp. That is one of the primary reasons why SI has lost virtually every balanced Fundamentalist that used to or might have participated.
As for talking Bible content, it’s true we used to have a handful of folks who really enjoyed discussing exposition and these are, for whatever reason, not participating anymore.” (Aaron Blumer)
The reason is very simple: SI moderator’s Calvinistic biases; SI site tolerance for besmirching Fundamentalism, its bent toward the so-called “conservative” evangelicalism steadily drove off virtually every non-Calvinistic fundamentalist. I can name three men who until mid-2009 were discussing exposition. SI lost them and will not get any of them back or new participants to replace them or the many others who left SI prior to 2009.
I didn’t mention it in the main post, but there was also alot of votes for structured debate with selected participants. So that idea has promise. The challenge there is finding people with the right qualities to participate.” (Aaron Blumer)
SI is highly unlikely to get any participants from a non-Calvinist, pro-dispensational view. SI can’t even get a decent debate going on Calvinism since SI drove off every non-Calvinist member who once enjoyed and would participate in the debates. I have advised as many as I can to refrain from participating at SI. To participate only draws attention to SI and that means they have more opportunity to promote “conservative” evangelicalism, its growing ecumenism, aberrant doctrine and pattern of worldly methods of ministry.
And, if you say that you’d rather have CE’s than those kinds of Fundamentalists, you’ve really raised the question whether SI Fundamentalists are distinguishable from CE’s.”
Exactly the point! Pretty much all that is left of SI participants are those who have become conservative evangelicals, which is why you can’t distinguish between the alleged SI Fundamentalist and the “conservative” evangelicals.

This was IMO one of the most poignant comments to date:
If SI Fundamentalists cannot be differentiated from CE’s, then one of two things must be true. 1) SI Fundamentalists are really CE’s, not Fundamentalists, or 2) CE and Fundamentalist are at least partially overlapping terms. If #1, then SI’s posturing as a site for Fundamentalists is a farce. If #2, then SI is operating with a vocabulary significantly different than most Fundamentalist institutions....”


*In the SI FAQ section, until recently, you would have read this statement
The site has four thousand members (several hundred active) who identify with conservative evangelicalism of the fundamentalist variety.”
The FAQ statement has been revised as follows,
The site has over a thousand active members who identify with Fundamentalism (more than four thousand archived members).
*Since June 2009 SI had for months misrepresented its actual membership count, which as of 02/03/10 is at just over 1,000. Until recently, when the FAQ had been revised, SI was claiming to it advertisers, “4,000 members (with) several hundred active.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blowing the Whistle on the SI “Referees”

From the Iron Skillet this morning- At Sharper Iron (SI) under the heading Volunteer Staff the following appears:
SharperIron has a volunteer crew of Moderators who work to keep discussions respectful and edifying.
Then under What to expect from SI Moderators . . (excerpt)
The Moderator role is not a “spiritual advisor” role, teacher role, or disciple-making role. These functions are far better supplied by your local church. When it comes to rules and moderating, the forums should work like a game of pick up basketball (or maybe a Chess tournament) where someone has the job of stepping into the role of referee when the need arises. So Moderators can and do join in the “game,” but mostly do a lot of watching.
This is a fair and acceptable job description of what participants at SI should expect at SI from its moderators. However, do the SI moderators, “mostly do a lot of watching?”

Most of SI’s moderators have operated within the guidelines set out in the description above. However, it is irrefutable that there are frequent examples of moderators tossing aside their zebra striped jersey to join in the game. In some cases, furthermore, openly taking sides in debates.

In old and new SI some of the moderators have done much more than “stepping into the role of referee.” Often times SI moderators bring their personal views into thread discussions, getting into debates and occasionally taking sides in the thread discussions. This was never more stark than when this past summer Aaron Blumer openly took sides against Missionary John Himes over *Kevin Bauder’s unprovoked attack on the legacy of Dr. Bob Jones, Jr. and Himes’s grandfather Dr. John R. Rice.

Let’s now look at a recent discussion thread. Are Rules Dangerous? Part 1 (posted 10/13/09). As of October 15 there were 69 posted comments. Approximately 40 of which were posted by SI moderators, administrators or the site publisher. This is a current and clear case, one of many, in which SI moderators go way beyond the role of observers or referees.

It is irrefutable and the evidence is obvious to any objective observer that SI has dwindled in membership and especially in the number of active participants. That trend began over two years ago and has steadily drained SI of members and active participants. Aaron, in his most recent plea for operating funds, (See And Now This, Oct. 20) disclosed an accurate count of actual members at SI, which is just over 1,000 with very few of these active in the threads. This acknowledgement and editing of previous membership claims at the SI FAQ page is a welcome change. Until very recently SI was **cooking its membership books suggesting to potential advertisers that SI “has four thousand members (several hundred active).”

According to Aaron’s accounting from his And Now This fund raising appeal, SI has lost 75% of its former (SI 2.0) membership. The significance of this is that with such drastic losses in membership the SI moderators and Aaron must join in the game or most SI threads would grind to a halt. Even so, many threads languish with little or no commentary whatsoever.

In summation: It is obvious to any objective observer that far and away the most active voices in the discussion threads are coming from SI’s moderators. In many cases these men and women do not settle for “the role of referee” in a “game of pick up basketball,” they become the game.

There is nothing inherently wrong with SI moderators taking very active roles in the threads. To portray their role, however, as that of a “referee” and then let them control the game, its direction and interject personal bias with impunity is inconsistent with SI’s stated role for its moderators.


*For the companion article see- Kevin Bauder: Even More Than “Nuff Said” For His Removal From the National Platform of the FBFI Annual Fellowship

**More on SI’s pulling back from cooking its membership books in a future article.

For an appendix to this topic see the attached comment thread.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A “Fair Number of Reformed Folks?”

Dear Guests of SI-ITIS:

I want to open what will be a running series on various issues in regard to the pseudo-fundamentalist Sharper Iron (SI) site. First in the skillet is a republication of an online response I had to a note posted by Aaron Blumer (SI site publisher) at my blog partner Kevin Lane’s
On My Walk personal blog.

Aaron responded in the thread to an element in Kevin’s article,
Why One Is, and One is Not a Dispensationalist in which Aaron cited an article published at SI. Aaron posted the following:
Thanks for stopping by SI. “SharperIron is loosening it’s grip on the truth.”

I think you misunderstand a little here what we’re trying to do at SI. The idea is to offer some differing points of view on various topics to give folks food for thought. 
It’s not quite accurate to characterize SI as loosing it’s grip on anything when we offer both sides of a question... surely what you see as the “Truth” is in one of them, as you pointed out. In any case, we had quite an interesting discussion going for a while there.

One more thing:
SI has always had a fair number of Reformed folks so, actually, all the pro-dispy stuff of late is more of a move toward balance in that direction.

-Aaron (site publisher)
In my commentary to follow I am not taking sides on the issue Aaron raised with Kev’s article. My concern with and response reposted below from the thread was in regard to Aaron’s closing paragraph, which I highlighted in italics.

Hi Kev:

Enjoyed your participation at my blog this last week. This article,
Lordship Salvation: Charles Spurgeon’s Personal Testimony Speaks Against It is still generating commentary. If I may I am going to address Aaron, but this is meant for your consideration as well.

Aaron, you wrote, “
The idea (at SI) is to offer some differing points of view on various topics to give folks food for thought…more of a move toward balance in that direction.”

It is way too late for that and IMO likely viewed as a facade of moving “
toward balance.”

From its inception SI has been heavily weighted toward the advancement of Calvinism/Reformed Theology, Lordship Salvation, and an increasingly passionate promotion of the stars, practices and fellowships of the so-called “
conservative” evangelical camp. Stars such: as John MacArthur, John Piper, C. J. Mahaney, Mark Driscoll, et al.

Aaron, you wrote, “
SI has always had a fair number of Reformed folks… .” 

“Fair number?” The SI team (moderators and administrators) is nearly 100% Calvinistic. Less than a year ago I asked Joel Tetreau, an SI mod, if he could name one SI moderator or administrator that is NOT a Calvinist. He said there may be one who is not a Calvinist, and named that person.

In any event, SI’s obvious bias toward (and in favor of) Calvinism, Reformed theology and its star personalities in the “
conservative” evangelical camp has pretty much rendered it (SI) a home for those who are sympathetic to those doctrines and causes.

SI’s recent incursion into Dispensationalism is (IMO) a bone thrown to a constituency of believers (most of) whom have long since departed the SI scene.

Those who were alienated by four years of SI’s hard lean toward Calvinism, and its stars in the evangelical camp, are not coming back to SI.