She complains of the rise of the “genre of the ‘spiritual blogger:’”
From the comfort of their living rooms, lay people suddenly became household names, wielding influence over tens of thousands of followers.
She then compares this new phenomenon to the printing press that caused its own faith crisis by leading to the Protestant Reformation.
Then she asks a series of important questions: “What kinds of theological training and ecclesial credentialing are necessary for Christian teachers and leaders? What interpretive body and tradition do these bloggers speak out of? Who decides what is true Christian orthodoxy? And how do we as listeners decide whom to trust as a Christian leader and teacher?”
The answer to the first question is none. In the blogosphere, you don’t have to have formal “theological training” or “ecclesial credentialing.” Neither is necessary. You have only to have a blog and an opinion on matters of faith.
The answer to the second question is their own perspective. People of faith — whether they have a blog or not — have their own perspective on faith born out of their own experiences with God and life itself. Take any congregation and ask 50 theological multiple choice questions and let me know how much agreement there is. You probably wouldn’t find a single congregation that answers every question the same way, no matter how much interpretation and tradition they come from.
The answer to the third question is the reader. Each of us has to examine the “teaching” we experience, whether it’s on someone’s blog or in someone’s church, and determine whether what’s being taught follows what we understand God’s teachings to be. Just because we’re sitting in a pew doesn’t mean we’re automatically receiving sound Christian teaching. I’m sure we’ve all heard sermons with which we’ve disagreed. And I don’t think most of us would imagine that in at least some cases, that disagreement is over an interpretation of the Bible that may not quite match up with a “traditional” view. Our job, as a believer, then, becomes stacking up the new teaching against older teachings and our own perception not only of what we’ve read in the Bible but what we’ve experienced from God Himself.
That pretty much answers the fourth question as well.
Christian bloggers aren’t the enemy of the church, despite the ease with which those who write about their faith can find an audience.
I’ve made the point plenty of times, but lest anyone missed it, I’ll say it again: I’m not a pastor. I write about matters of faith out of concern for people of faith. I may be wrong in the way I interpret things.
But if I am, it’s out of a sincere desire to do what’s right. God is supposed to know what’s in our hearts, right?
The writer continues:
If we don’t respond to this current crisis of authority institutionally, we are allowing Christian doctrine to be highjacked by whomever has the loudest voice or biggest platform.
I’ve never attended a church that didn’t at some point, offer small groups or Sunday School classes. And in those cases, invariably, a “teacher,” who was not ordained, would lead discussions among church members who themselves were not ordained. By the writer’s logic, such a scenario must be as “dangerous” as most Christian bloggers.
Who’s in charge? Who’s overseeing what’s being said as it’s being said to make sure there are no slip-ups?
Let’s face the facts.
There are going to be times Christian bloggers get it wrong.
But there are also times they might just get it more right than a trained minister.
And at the very least, they may well accomplish two other important functions.
First, they may present a point of view that allows someone who agrees with them to know that they’re not the only person who feels that way. That recognition might be enough to encourage someone with doubts or concerns not to turn their back on the church. (And in case no one has noticed, people are turning away.)
And second, they may present a reason for deeper faith discussions to explore those “new” ideas. Those discussions may actually help someone who’s on the right path become even more deeply engrained on that path by reinforcing their own convictions if they find the blogger’s points don’t hold water. In that way, the blogger makes the reader’s faith stronger, not weaker.
Maybe what we need more than someone “in charge” of the Christian blogosphere is church pastors who are willing to have dialogues about the points of view that seem to be taking such a strong hold. Maybe pastors could spend more time contrasting varying points against Christ’s teaching, not to “win an argument” or to “be right,” but to deepen people’s understanding of Christ’s teachings.
That kind of examination might be eye-opening for both sides.
Patrick is a Christian with more than 26 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.