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FIRST-PERSON: Blogging and the Battle of Hürtgen Forest

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (BP) — I am no expert on World War II, but I have read about the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, which took place from mid-September of 1944 to February 1945 on the German/Belgian border. By the accounts I have read it was a fierce battle, which caused 33,000 casualties on the American side and around 28,000 on the German side. Bloody. Brutal. And according to most of what I have read, largely unnecessary. Charles B. MacDonald, an Army historian who also served in the Battle of Hürtgen, called the battle “a misconceived and basically fruitless battle that should have been avoided.”

Evidently, as the war escalated, the Army failed to realize that there was little value in that battle, that fighting it was not helpful in winning the war.

When I was in Taiwan last summer, I had several chances to talk with missionaries from all over the island and from various mission organizations and denominations. One thing I noticed is that they had almost no interest in the issues that we spend so much time arguing about on Baptist blogs. They were interested in evangelism, church planting and growth strategies, church health and such issues. There was interest in theological things, but it was muted and less passionate than I was accustomed to.

I believe it is important that we seek to understand Scripture, that we study theology and that we attempt to fine tune even the finest points of theology. If I did not believe that, I would not do what I do. But it also seems to be a unique American blessing that we have the time to engage in such battles. People on the front lines of spiritual warfare are often too busy fighting the forces of darkness to bicker with other Christians about tertiary issues.

I wonder sometimes if blogging doesn’t become, periodically, our own little Battle of Hürtgen Forest. We start discussing a topic and it escalates, and suddenly we are going to the mattresses about something that is not nearly as important as we make it.

Does it matter whether we are Calvinist, non-Calvinist, traditionalist or whatever? Of course it does. It is a doctrine worth discussing. But if we believe that the Bible is God’s Word, that Jesus is the only way, that the Gospel is the only hope, and that we are here to be on mission for God, does it really matter as much as we make it matter? Look at all the invective and derogation that has gone on in this battle (from both sides and toward both sides). It seems to me that a legitimate debate over soteriological issues too often becomes a tragic friendly fire massacre.

I read an article from a major blog that was basically an ad-hominem attack against a position I hold. My initial reaction, one made out of pique more than a passion for Christ, was to write a scathing response. But then I realized that the issue doesn’t matter enough to fight that fight. I could enter the fray, but would there be any gain to the Kingdom? Was it a battle worth fighting?

Do the issues we argue on Baptist blogs matter? Most of them do, at some level, at least. I think it is good to talk about them, exchange ideas, even to disagree over them.

But do they matter as much as they sometimes matter to us? I really doubt it.

We need to be careful not to allow our discussions to become unnecessary and bloody battles. Drawing those lines and making those decisions is more of an art than a science and necessitates the guidance of the Spirit, likely precluding a set of clear rules.

But we need to be careful that our discussion topics on blogs do not become bloody reminders of the Hürtgen Forest.
This column first appeared at www.SBCVoices.com. Dave Miller is pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, editor of www.SBCVoices.com, and second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Dave Miller