Wikipedia: Should We Manage Without It?

29 Aug

As I look at the past few weeks, I am amazed at how many times a question I had was answered by asking Wikipedia. Though I remember a time not so long ago that I looked at at such sources with disdain, more and more I find myself defaulting to them because of their ease of use, their availability, and their seeming endless well of topics to view. Those reasons, do not overcome the burden of proof that we should demand from our sources, however with such sites listing article references following most topics, linking of their articles to primary sources, and the self policing of such sites, we must consider adjusting old attitudes. I think as we consider “wiki”like sites we must cede the fact that more and more these sites are just as good as other sources.

Having said that, I wonder if you have seen a cartoon like the one in this blog? All political cartoons exaggerate the situations at hand, and trivialize true ethics. Even so, in this cartoon from Australia about the Prime Minister’s office editing Wikipedia articles concerning their government, we see two sharp criticisms that I think we must consider.

First, websites which ask for user composition as well as accept user editing of articles allow a very dangerous temptation towards manipulation of supposed objective information to mold public image. In other words to present themselves as the authority.

  • To read a person’s blog or website is to take for granted that the content is opinion. To read a “wiki” like site a reader must constantly be aware that the articles can contain as much opinion as objective information. Checking an article’s references is essential.
  • Biblically this situation harmonizes with that of 3rd John 9-10 concerning Diotrephes. John warns his recipients that Diotrephes puts himself as first refusing to acknowledge authority and anyone who genuinely could be called brothers. This is the temptation composers of “wiki” articles face as they can continually update their articles. Very easily they can ignore authorities in the fields about which they compose putting themselves in the position of the authority with none of the credentials.
  • Spiritually, this elevation of the individual to the place of an authority results in a populace of authorities who will listen to no legitimate authority, especially not one who created all, and revealed His Word by which to live.

Second, such reliance upon self and on the part of the readers of such sites, allows for one to lapse into a life of academic and practical ease concerning reality.

  • Paying dues by doing scholarly work or research does not make one an unquestionable authority, however, it does earn a person the right to present opinions with a degree of trustworthiness that their research represents reality. Wikipedia tears that system down promoting and encouraging a lax system of easy presentation which only leads to more laxity.
  • Biblically God offers harsh words for those who live in such ease in Zechariah 1:15 among other places. God looks at the lax and ease with a growing anger as the lazy continue to let more and more slide.
  • Spiritually this is the same problem from which God tried to protect Adam and Eve. As their guard grew lax, their sinfulness grew. In just one generation humanity’s sinfulness grew from disobedience towards a Fatherly God to murder. Imagine the distance which has crept in from thousands of generations of sinners.

So why make such a huge deal about Wikipedia? For fear that more “wiki” gods will lead more away from true worship of Jesus. Granted, the existence of Wikipedia and such non-authoritarian articles does not directly lead to fewer true worshiper of Jesus. It is the prevailing mood of the culture against authority and towards laxity; moods which have made Wikipedia so popular that trouble me.

Go back with me to the Garden once again and think about Satan’s deception of Eve. What two tactics did he use? First he set himself up as the authority concerning God’s Word. Genesis 3:2 tells us that Eve adds “neither shall you touch it, lest you die” to God’s original command to Adam.It is this that the serpent preys upon, slithering between God’s clarity of consequence for eating the fruit and man’s lax understanding about touching the fruit.  As Eve touches the fruit, not dying the serpent with his “wiki” god in full view he sells Eve  into a moment of further laxity where she ignores God’s true command.

To elevate the authority of anything above God is disastrous, while becoming lazy leads to a more deceptive but equally damaging end. There is but one hope, cling to the authority of the WORD made flesh to dwell among us. Do not “wiki” a Christ for yourself, nor “wiki” his Bible. Instead trust His Word as your authority and combat sinful laxity by turning away from it. In the cartoon above,  the PM of Australia says that he does not know how we managed before Wikipedia. The sad truth is that as long as he manages himself the best he build is a “wiki” life which one day will be edited to conform to the standard of Christ – the true, eternal, perfect Authority of the universe.

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Posted by on August 29, 2010 in Ministry of the Word


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