Monday, August 18, 2008

Common Research Tool Mistakes

The Internet is a great source of information. With the advent of large-scale book scanning projects like Gallica, Archive.org, and Google Books, a wealth of information that was formerly available only to those with books has become easily accessible. There are also web discussion boards, some of which attract experts and amateurs alike. Wikipedia and numerous copycats have provided public encyclopedias. YouTube and copycats have provided video discussions of various topics. Search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Kart00, Cuil, and Alltheweb have made searching the Internet easier. Some Internet service providers, like AOL, have provided additional tools for extracting information from the Internet. This wealth of available information is a rich blessing. It has also lead to a number of problems.

1) Consider the Sources

When one locates a source of information, it is important to consider what the source is. Anybody can make their on Geocities web site, or start their own Blogger.com or Wordpress.com blog. Critical reading skills are important in order to sort it all out. The same goes, though, for books written in the 19th century. There are many good books that have been scanned, but there are also many books that are worse than useless. Simply because it got placed on the Internet, in your local paper, or even in a book, doesn't mean it's true.

2) Learn the Basics

If you want to understand something complicated, you are going to have start with something simpler. Trying to jump from basic algebra to partial differential equations is likely to lead to some serious math problems. Trying to jump from rudimentary Bible study to a study of the order of decrees is similarly likely to lead to some serious theology problems. Trying to jump from no knowledge of Greek to a complicated Greek question involves a similar leap.

3) Know your Limitations

Not everyone is equally good at critical thinking. Learn your own weaknesses. This can be an enormously difficult task. Women may not appreciate my saying this, but women need to bear in mind that they are the weaker vessel not just physically. Women are more easily deceived, which is why God has given men the responsibility and duty of caring for them. One of a husband's duties is the spiritual care of his wife.

Men also need to know their limitations though. The elders of the church are there for the edification especially of the men (who in turn are to teach their wives and children). One of the Biblical qualifications for the eldership is that a man is apt to teach. Churches that follow the Scriptures take this into consideration.

Even elders need to know their limitations. There is true danger in being a teacher, because one is held to a higher standard. A wise teacher relies on his fellow teachers, both his living colleagues, but especially the great teachers of the past.

4) Always Go Back to Scripture and Prayer

No matter what your research may turn up, go back to Scripture and prayer to God for wisdom. Scripture is the revealed Word of God and the only infallible source of knowledge that we have. Prayer to God is the way we have to beg Him for divine assistance to illuminate our understanding.

Research tools are good, and useful, but they need to be kept in their appropriate place, subservient to Scripture and prayer. There have been many who have forgotten this important fact and wandered off into idle speculation.

May God give us Wisdom according to the pleasure of His will,

-TurretinFan

3 comments:

Matthew said...

Excellent points!

BTW, I like the Recent Comments box that was added to your blog; neat idea.

Jnorm888 said...

If it wasn't for all this info online then I wouldn't be Orthodox today, for half of the early christians I read came from primary works that were online.

The internet is a great source of wealth, and I agree with most of what you said here. But if it wasn't for God's Divine Providence in forming the internet then alot of people like myself would of had no way of knowing what was really out there outside of our Baptist, Pentecostal or Charismatic bubble boxes.

The internet helped me see that historic Christianity was alot bigger and richer than I ever thought possible.


So yeah, I agree that we have to be carefull, but the internet cuts both ways. IT's a two way street.

You can find bad things on it, but you can find good things as well.







JNORM888

Turretinfan said...

jnorm888,

I quite agree that one would never become Orthodox simply from reading the Scriptures - a fact implicit in your comment.

That said, I hope you will not stop researching the early church, and especially not stop (or perhaps begin again, if you have stopped) searching the Scriptures to see whether what Orthodoxy says is so, is in fact so.

-TurretinFan