Technological development expands and grows at such a rapid pace that we hardly have time to process our use of it theologically. Many Christians are reluctant to embrace all this newfangled techno-stuff. Others jump aboard as soon as the latest program or product has hit the Web or the Apple store. The motivations behind both the reluctance of some and the eagerness of others should have some biblical, theological grounding if we are Christians, right?
In this post, I am inspired by Dr. George Morley’s farewell piece in which she shared some reflections on blogging. Her questions about the practice warrant the need for some careful theological thinking about the nature of a blog as a means of communication.
So, what could we say towards a “theology of blogging”?
In the digital realm, blogging is public “speech.” That means that the Bible actually has a great deal to say about our use of social media because the Bible has a great deal to say about what we say. The wisdom literature (think Job, Proverbs, some of the Psalms, the New Testament letter of James, etc.) offers quite a number of warnings that should ring loudly in the ears of those of us who blog. Here are a few blurbs (roughly within range of fitting in that Twitter box with the blinking cursor!):
“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Prov 29:20).
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (Prov 18:2).
“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness” (Jam 3:5-6a).
And this may be the most frightening statement in Scripture that should give us pause before clicking “Publish”:
Jesus: “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give an account for every careless word they speak….” (Mt 12:26).
These are stern, frightening warnings. But should they silence the blogosphere? Not necessarily… but they should certainly temper the blogosphere, or at least shape and guide the way we digidisciple(s) are creating blog posts. In response to the warnings above, we learn that Christians who blog should…
Resist being hasty with our words (Prov 29:20)
Write to understand, not just to vocalize our unreflected opinions (Prov 18:2)
Use our speech to inspire rather than to inflame (James 3)
Refuse to offer any words that are careless (Mt 12:36)
These warnings are so urgent because public theological discourse is actually a central discipline for God’s people. We are familiar with what Jesus hailed as “the greatest commandment”: love the Lord your God with absolutely everything (with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength—cf. Mk 12:29-30). But we are less familiar with the context of that greatest of commandments—Jesus was quoting from “the Shema” of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (“Shema” is from the Hebrew “to hear,” the command that opens Dt. 6:4). Love the LORD your God with everything, we read, AND:
“…these WORDS that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (emphasis added).
The context of the greatest commandment is public theological discourse that spans every sphere and every cycle of our lives! So the strong warnings above are not to dissuade bloggers from blogging, but to ensure that if we are going to utilize a blog as an avenue for the centrally important discipline of public speech about God, then we need to do so in absolute excellence and with great care.
Now, the Shema does not demand that every Christian sign up for a WordPress account. As we will see in upcoming posts, the Church’s public theological discourse occurs through the varied members of Christ’s Body through varied formats. The point of this post is that blogging is a contemporary mode of an ancient biblical practice that is therefore subject to biblical guidelines.
So bloggers, blog. But not with careless words. And blog for the sake of discussing the wonder and glory of God when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you surf the digital realm of the Internet.
Any thoughts from bloggers or blog-readers out there? How are blogs both dangerous and helpful in damaging or promoting the Church’s discourse about God?
Topics for upcoming reflection: the “unordained” blog (the voice of the blogger is not commissioned by an ecclesial body—how does this affect its authority and legitimacy?); the “anointed” blog (is blogging a “spiritual gift”?); the “prophetic” blog (is the blog a suitable format for God’s prophetic voice in church and society?).