Anonymity and the authority of God

When I wrote Anonymous Leadership, I did not expect it to turn into multiple posts. The idea is not a new one or particularly revolutionary. Then, I stumbled upon the reverse correlation between anonymity and non-blog authorship. Next, I noted that anonymity contributes to the censorship problem in the manosphere. In all that rambling, I did not make my point strongly. Lexet noted correctly:

“That is easy to say if you are not in a profession where you would be fired instantly, and your career destroyed, for saying anything remotely anti-pc….people live in fear, and will throw their best friends under the bus to avoid 5 minutes of fake scrutiny by people who dont matter.”

Why should anyone risk their well-being for this? As I said previously, I refuse anonymity because a man should put his reputation behind his words. The word of a Christian should be his bond. But what does this mean and why does it matter?

When a person decides to become a follower of God and make Jesus their master, this is not a part-time profession. Just as Jesus was God’s authorized agent, we too are his agents. When we speak, we speak for God with his authority. Always. This is not something that can be compartmentalized or done part-time. Any time we fail to do this is cause for repentance.

This is why we cannot give oaths: God is our witness and we represent him. If we were to ever lie, we would be misrepresenting God. If we were to give an oath or someone were to require us to give an oath, this would be to question God’s authority because we are God’s agents speaking on his behalf whenever we speak. Our “yes” must be our “yes” and our “no” must be our “no” because we represent God.

How can I fully represent God, under the authority of Jesus the Christ, if I hide myself and misrepresent who I really am? There cannot be a trace of a lie or deception, for those things are the antithesis of God. If I cannot put my reputation behind my words, is it because I fear and am ashamed to take a stance for Christ?[1] If so, then anonymity is a sin. If I need anonymity because I am speaking words that don’t represent God, that is also a sin.[2]

Consider that there are anonymous books of the New Testament. The authors of these books, or the authority by which they were written, was almost certainly known by the original readers. We have merely lost the information. In every single case attempts have been made to determine the original authors of the books anyway. The legitimacy of the words being spoken depends on who spoke them (e.g. apostolic authority). This is such a basic, universal understanding that we accept the authors of the NT books even without proof. We are not comfortable with anonymity.

Attaching our names to our words matters. Consider the power of names: Billy Graham, C.S. Lewis, the apostle Paul. Their names immediately conjure their roles as Christians. They represented God and people listened because they could see them in their real lives. When people saw those men, they saw Jesus. The anonymous are forgotten.

Every Christian represents God, from the greatest to the least. It isn’t just the apostles for whom following Jesus is a full-time job. There is no pass for not being one of the original apostles or a member of the clergy.

[1] Romans 1:14-16 [NIV]: I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

[2] This is the hardest thing for me. I like to think that my political opinions can be compartmentalized away from my Christianity, as if they don’t have to, first and foremost, be biblical. It’s easy to spout whatever political opinion you want until you have to do it non-anonymously in Jesus’ name. If I am anonymous, who will hold me accountable?

3 Comments

  1. Walt

    Derek, can you tell me the method you use to interpret Scripture?

    Also, following your logic do you believe it is sinful not to publically use your full and middle name, address, and cell phone identifier on the internet in China if you are an unregistered anabaptist church minister?

    The issue of lying to preserve life has been debated for centuries. Your position, if I understand it using your literal interpretation of one passage in Scripture, is that if a man came into your house and said he will shoot your wife if you do tell him her real name and he demands you tell her name, you must say her name and not remain silent in disclosing her name.

    You believe remaining anonymous or silent as to her real name would be a sin before God by not disclosing it?

    Also, following your continued logic on the sin of writing a book of Scripture without using an Authors name, do you think God was in error not making known to every generation the author of Hebrews. Please don’t speculate that God did produce publically the author’s name for the book of Hebrews and the book of Genesis, for example, but man lost it and God had no ability to overcome man’s sin to loose it as that is pure speculation without any biblical nor historical warrant.

    Once I get more clarity on your position how you interpret Scripture, and other answers, I will understand better your views. I’m trying to find consistency as my experience with Anabaptist is they are not always consistent in their method of interpreting Scripture, nor in logic.

  2. Walt

    Derek,

    One more question. I see you are using the NIV in your presupposition for interpretating Scripture, do you know who the author’s were of the underlying NT Greek texts and if the texts do omit any verses of Scripture that are contained in the majority NT manuscripts, do believe in the sin of omission or just commission?

    I assume you see it is sinful to intentially add passages to Scripture as is demonstrated in the majority text and not sinful to intentionally or unintentionally remove passages as is demonstrated in the minority text.

  3. Derek Ramsey

    Walt,

    You ask insightful, probing questions. They are appreciated.

    The comments at this post discuss lying and non-violence. I think I covered most of your questions there. If not, ask them again and/or poke new holes in my theological understanding (as necessary).

    However, I must clarify. It is difficult, but entirely possible, to be anonymous and not sin. I switched to first person pronouns because it applies to me personally, not necessarily others. The temptation to misrepresent is great. I avoid anonymity because of my weaknesses, but there exist those with greater integrity.

    My post isn’t a sweeping black and white judgement. Perhaps bloggers are not entirely honest with themselves and need self-evaluation. It is hard to believe only published authors need to be named. The evidence suggests utilitarianism, not spiritual introspection, as the reason for the choice.

    Even when anonymity is not a sin, that still doesn’t justify it. First, a religious argument. We don’t merely use Jesus’ authority like a tool, we take it on ourselves as representatives and witnesses. Is there is any biblical justification for anonymous witnesses? Second, a practical argument. Isn’t it interesting how little we as a society respect anonymous works? Consider Mark Twain, Franklin W. Dixon, and the authors of Frakenstein, Primary Colors, and the Federalist Papers. All the authors are now known. By contrast, note the hostility towards the anonymous NYT writer who alleged to be a member of the resistance inside the Trump administration. People do not respect anonymity and seek to uncover it. The snitch is frowned upon. In jurisprudence, the accused has a right to face their accuser. To have lasting leadership and influence is to put your name behind your work while the anonymous tend to fade away. Anonymity harms both author and message, making it less effective. I’ve specifically claimed that anonymity is not an attribute of masculinity and should be avoided in the manosphere. It is my opinion. Others can and should disagree, as Lexet has done.

    “I see you are using the NIV…”

    This is just convention. It’s popular, but no translation is perfect. I use many. Textual criticism shows that “scripture” is more fluid (somewhat like probability). The Majority Text cannot be correct merely because it is in the majority. That’s logically fallacious.

    “…sinful to intentially add passages…and not sinful to intentionally or unintentionally remove passages…”

    This is going to be difficult to explain clearly, so grant me charity. I’m not overly dogmatic on canon, given the extant manuscripts. When debating Catholics, they can quote anything they want (including the Deuterocanonicals) up to the and including the 3rd century. I accept their terms whenever possible. I’m writing a series on the life of Jesus using a minimalist approach and have argued that the gospel is preserved even without most of the New Testament. I really like Habermas’ minimal facts case for the resurrection.

    Does this make me sound liberal? I’m not. There are things in the Bible that are not orignal. I can make explicit arguments one way or another, but I can’t know 100%. I can’t just pick and choose, I have to follow the evidence. There are tricky questions that I have no answers for, such as whether we should reject the disputed ‘pseudepigraphical’ works of Paul (i.e. Timothy and Titus).

    “…do you think God was in error not making known to every generation the author of Hebrews…Genesis…”

    No. Not all anonymity is wrong, but we should be suspicious of it by default. I don’t think this is controversial. By what authority do you accept Hebrews? Your question presumes that God intended to give us a canon generally and the book of Hebrews specifically. The Catholics argue that “sacred tradition” is not merely written, but also spoken instruction. We do not have everything that has ever qualified as scripture. It is not an error.

    Regarding Gensis, it is an issue of authority. If you know the book comes from God, then you don’t need the author. We accept Genesis (and the rest of the Hebrew bible) mostly on the authority of Jesus. The New Testament was written by those who spoke on behalf of God, again, through Jesus’ authority.

    “can you tell me the method you use to interpret Scripture?”

    I don’t know how to explain this in a way that would successfully communicate without misunderstanding. Perhaps some general observations will help. I tend to reject interpretations based on fallacious reasoning. I tend to avoid mystical, irrational, explanations. I value context, including historical and literary context. When in doubt I say “I don’t know” rather than assume something specific.

    Derek

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