Research and Criticism

So, let's say you are in college and your professor has required a paper on a particular topic.  It's something you don't know much about; you've only heard rumors about it, and a few other random things.  Generally you don't understand it and have to produce a paper that won't get ripped to shreds by your erudite prof.

Now imagine that you decide to write your paper based on an article or two you've read in the news giving opinion (without source citings) and the readings you've done through the first page or two of a Google search.  You peruse the Google hits and read up on a couple of sites and draw your conclusion.  Then you write your paper. 

What kind of grade are you going to get?  What are the odds that an opinion article or two you happened to find and a couple of web hits are going to give the full-orbed understanding necessary to criticize?  I've written dozens of papers for my undergraduate degree and my MDiv, and I would never let my footnotes reflect that kind of shoddy research.  It is wholly inadequate.

Yet I get comments on Reformissionary, Emerging SBC Leaders, in emails, and on other sites telling me what people who consider themselves emergent (or sympathetic to the emerging church) believe based on a news article, a Mohler commentary, and a few websites.  I have an incredible amount of respect for Al Mohler, probably more than most who I've read in the emergent conversation, and I know that Al Mohler will give out some seriously poor grades if you research for a paper the way some research emergent. 

Honestly, and I shouldn't have to keep saying this, I'm critical of emergent too.  There are parts and pieces and people I don't agree with in the conversation.  But if I only talk to people I agree with I will end up with me and a mirror.

I'm up for any number of conversations, disagreements, criticism, whatever.  But rumor or pundit-speak isn't an argument.  Neither is reading weblogs by people you don't know about.  You can find anything on the web, and the earliest hits aren't necessarily good sources, and even the ones that are don't speak for everyone in the conversation.

I encourage comments on this and other blogs.  I encourage disagreement where we feel the truth is compromised.  I don't encourage you to criticize unless you can defend your point.  Otherwise we look foolish, even when we are right.