Polaroid World

2 10 2008

I’m tired of everything being so instant and I’m tired of trying to learn theology on the Internet.
Whatever happened to taking the time to read scripture carefully, reading commentaries and listening to the Sermon on Sunday? Today I think too many people (myself included) see the Internet as a mystical gateway. A way to have a surface understanding of just about every theological issue there is out there. The staggering amount of information out there truly does boggle the mind, but it is no substitute for hard work and good old fashioned learning. 

If you want to learn theology don’t spend time reading it on the Internet. Go with the tried and trusted sources of time past. Read Spurgeon’s sermon’s, read Wayne Grudems Systematic theology, read anything by F.F. Bruce or Gordon Fee. Read books that give you an overview of the Biblical narrative. Read people who oppose your view. Spend some time wrestling with their views, expositions and conclusions. Spend time reading physical books.If you have questions (and if you don’t God help you) ask a real person face to face. Take them out for coffee or lunch, invite them over to your house. Get a discussion going. Ask them to give you insight and if they can see any blind spots in your view point. I tell you it will blow them away. Not only that, if you do it right you will have a real friendship that goes deeper than the surface. This friend could be someone who could strengthen and encourage you in your walk with Christ. Join a home group that is connected to your local church. That way you can get several points of view and learn to discuss them irenically. Not only will you talk about Grace but you will have to learn how to model it someone who disagrees with you! What a fantastic opportunity. 

I don’t mean to deride the Internet but its so shallow. Its easy to post a dogmatic, polemical argument against Roman Catholicism and remain anonymous. Its a lot harder to state your views in public. The Internet is no training ground for a real Christian life. There are plenty of sites that allow you to read books for free. I must have downloaded 50 John Piper books, 100’s of books from Christian Classics Ethereal Library. But yet I treat every one of these books as a headline story. A quick skim over the main points and I’m outta there. The work of the author is greatly diminished when we don’t struggle with the issues presented.  

In our age of convenience there is something unsatisfying about the Internet. We have access to everything we could want yet we want more. We can talk to people across the world without leaving our home, yet we lack those deeper connections that happen across a dinner table. We have on line forums yet we lack an authentic sense of community. We can talk about the doctrines of Grace without ever modelling them our fellow human beings. We can discuss the theology of suffering without ever struggling with someone who suffers. The Internet tends to remove us from reality and offer us an escape. A place where there are no rules, boundaries or inhibitions. Where we are free to behave as we wish without fear of reprisal.

Many people feel happy to blog about their dissatisfaction with Church, and how it no longer works for them. Many of these blogs were highlighted in Mark Strom’s book “Re framing Paul”. While I do sympathise with these people I do wonder about the lack of personal conviction these people display. Many of them talk about being bored with the sermons and frustrated with the hierarchies. Yet how many of them would have had the courage to confront people on the inside and work for reformation from within? We stand on the shoulders of many giants who did just that. They tackled what seemed like an enormous monster and fought hard for the freedoms we enjoy. Today we rebel against those gifts like spoilt children. The system no longer works for us. We want new toys.

What a different place this world would be if people thought about reforming their church from the inside out, instead of criticising it from the distance anonymity. What a difference it would make indeed.

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4 responses

2 10 2008
scaryreasoner

Theology is a fraud. There’s no “there” there. The proof is that they consider the concept of “faith” to be a virtue. Faith is the con man’s way of getting you to feel good about yourself for believing his con. (Of course the “con men” in this case are all themselves victims of the ancient con, and have, for the most part, good intentions.)

Ask yourself this. Why is faith — believing something to a degree of certainty which exceeds what is warranted by the available evidence a good idea? Ask yourself why is that not a bad idea? Why is that not a recipe for fooling yourself? If you exercise faith, how is that not dishonest? How is it not dishonest to essentially lie to yourself about how certain you should be? Why is excessive certainty (faith) a good idea?

I propose that it is not a good idea at all, it is a terrible idea. I propose that theology is a complete and utter sham.

2 10 2008
aworthydiscussion

I propose that your comments are a scam, and your belief system is utterly futile. What grounds do I do that on? Well the same as you – my own subjective experience. You argument is as circular as a football. There is no authority to your experience other than your experience.

There are too many things in life we cannot reason away. For somethings in life we are just not given the reasons why things are the way they are.

When anyone who appeals to pure reason to explain things in life can actually explain to me why the world exists I will stand up and listen. Until then your view point is self defeating and done in a way I have condemned in my current post.

2 10 2008
m slater

“If you want to learn theology don’t spend time reading it on the Internet.”

Grant I agree very much with your statements about the internet and theology. I use the internet, though not as avidly as many, and find it to be a great tool for networking with people, entertainment, and having discussions (such as ours) which I would not be having in any other medium.

However, I’ve never thought that the internet is a particularly good tool for theological study, or often used it as such.
Part of that is the anonymous format, there is usually no way to see if a person is qualified to comment on an issue.
Also, the short, shallow, and underdeveloped nature of theology online (built for skimming) leaves so much to be desired.
Finally, it is hard to find intelligent, thoughtful, and open-minded contributors online, so much of it is the ‘if you like N.T. Wright you are a heretic’ or ‘if you don’t believe in the rapture God will leave you behind’ type of extreme partisanship.

Now granted for me there are exceptions. Some sites and authors are pretty credible, and for example you can find Journal articles from print journals (like JETS or JBL) as pdf’s, and I’ve enjoyed many of those.
Obviously I think there is value to a point in internet research since I have a list of research links on my blog, but I would never want the internet to be a main source for anyone and one needs to be very decerning.

Its not, in my opinion at least, so much the digital aspect as it is the sketchy quality and lack of depth and research typical of online theology.
I like the digital side of it, and although I absolutely love physical books and rely heavily on them, buying and reading them incessantly, there is a very valuable place for digital.
I for example swear by Logos Bible Software, not an internet site, but an amazing comprehensive digital library which I am unbelievably impressed with.

I think as the tools for theological study move forward physical books will for a long time retain pride of place (and always have a role) but that digital like Logos (and to a lesser extent the internet) will be incorporated in a very beneficial manner.

Sorry this was so long… your internet themed post on the internet peaked my attention

2 10 2008
aworthydiscussion

Yeah I’ve heard a lot of good things about logos and I’ll probably end up getting it at some stage during my studies. It looks great.

I think we come from the same point on the net. While it can be helpful it more often that not doesn’t help. Digital ways of doing things are fine, but I don’t think they have really aided us more than good old fashioned ways of learning.

Having access to Journals and Forums have been good to keep the conversation going on certain issues, but I have to agree with you that we don’t know how qualified some people are to answer these questions. I see too much of that funadmentalist partisanship you talk about. Just type eternal security or Jesus is google and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

As Mark strom once said “We’re not exactly back to the 1st century, but we’re pretty close…”. I feel in terms of theology the internet has overpromised and underdelivered. We have more access and a wide array of ideas to survey, but I would posit that the Church has never been more powerless and without influence than it has today.

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