This may come as a surprise to many of you, but I am an internet blogger.
Shocking I know.
There’s a lot of us out there. You may be one yourself. We all blog on a wide range of topics from politics, to photography, to food, or in my case, religion.
Bloggers come in all shapes, sizes, genders, political persuasions, and religious backgrounds. But if there’s anything that ties us all together, it’s the fact that we’re uneducated, unqualified trolls who live alone in our parent’s basements and spend our days causing trouble for the “real” men of God who are “out there in the world” trying to take a stand for truth
At least, that’s what I’ve learned from watching this clip from The Elephant Room (along with other denunciations of internet critics from at least one of the hosts, Mark Driscoll).
Watch the first 1:30 or so of this video and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
If you’ve never heard of The Elephant Room, then you may want some context for this post. Instead of a lengthy history, here’s the trailer for round 2 of The Elephant Room that will take place a little over a week from now.
When I first came across this conference(?)/table talk(?) I was really intrigued. I love theology. The idea of a bunch of theologians and pastors sitting around, talking about “tough” theological issues sounded right up my alley. It should give you a pretty good idea of what it’s all about.
Then I watched some of the video from The Elephant Room.
Wow. This is theological dialogue?
Certainly these guys are entitled to hold an event like this and I agree that in theory such an event could be really helpful for the church. That’s not my issue. My issue is the way in which it is presented. Namely, that this is the church (broadly speaking) having an open and honest dialogue about important issues from various perspectives.
From The Elephant Room “About” page….
The Elephant Room is more than an event. It is the outgrowth of an idea.The idea that the best way forward for the followers of Jesus lies not in crouching behind walls of disagreement but in conversation among all kinds of leaders about what the scriptures actually teach. We must insist on the biblical Gospel, right doctrine and practice but not isolate ourselves from relationship even with those who believe much differently.
However, what we have in The Elephant Room is a group of neo-Reformed celebrity pastors ganging up on one, possibly two theological lightweights (no offense intended) from another theological tradition. Shallow theological arguments are made for particular issues and every once in a while there’s a glimpse of reason and logic, but the bulk of the support is found in pandering to popular sentiment and an emphatic denunciation of the opponent and their position.
That’s not theology. It’s demagogy.
The strength (if you can call it that) of the arguments put forth from Driscoll, McDonald, Chandler, and others like them is not found their logic, reason, or biblical scholarship, but in how loudly and forcibly they proclaim what they have to say. It’s this approach that allows these guys to casually toss aside criticism, particularly when it comes from sources they don’t deem acceptable, i.e. internet bloggers like this one.
Are there bloggers out there with dubious or non-existent credentials, who blog from their parent’s basement, ranting incoherently about anything that pops into their noggin? Can these incoherent, anonymous rants cause unnecessary damage to the church?
Absolutely. I’m not debating that.
What I want to call attention to is the outright hypocrisy and profound ignorance behind the assertion that what is written on the internet is lacking in theological validity.
First, the hypocrisy.
Wanna guess which guys in this video have blogs?
Mark Driscoll? Blog.
James McDonald? Blog.
Matt Chandler? Blogs at The Resurgence.
Perry Noble? Blog.
Steven Furtick? Blog.
Greg Laurie? Blog.
To his credit David Platt doesn’t have a blog, but he did write a book. Which is suspiciously like a blog, but in paper, rather than digital form.
So, if blogging about the church, her leaders, and theological issues renders a person’s opinion and/authority null and void (which seem to me what is clearly being implied), then what authority or credibility to any of the guys in this video have if they all have blogs and post their thoughts on the internet via YouTube and social media? Or are their blogging efforts the only acceptable form of online theological expression?
Which leads me to my other issue with Driscoll and McDonald’s casual dismissal of internet bloggers.
Not only do many of us not live in a 1 bedroom apartment surrounded by cats, but many of us are ordained ministers actively involved in full-time ministry. And at least in the case of the guys that run this blog, unlike Mr. Driscoll, we didn’t follow in the path of Joseph Smith, ordain ourselves, reject the authority of every existent denomination and found our own church at which we have no authority higher than ourselves.
I could also go on about the multiple theology degrees (and earned doctorates) that many of us hold, but I digress.
Am I mad? Absolutely. But I’m also really frustrated and profoundly disturbed.
I’m frustrated by Driscoll, McDonald, and the rest of their neo-Reformed friends fashioning themselves and their tradition as the arbitrators of Christian orthodoxy when their own credentials for doing so are often dubious at best. The Christian faith is profoundly diverse and acceptable interpretations of the Bible and doctrine which still fall within the parameters of orthodoxy are almost as equally diverse. Though the neo-Reformed movement may want you to believe otherwise, it is not the dominant theological tradition in the church. Not by a long shot. That honor would go to our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, all 1 billion of them. Furthermore, there are literally hundreds of millions of Protestants who don’t ascribed to neo-Reformed theology.
Having the loudest voice doesn’t make you right, nor does it make you and your tradition the representative of faith. Represent your tradition and do it proudly, but do sow with humility, knowing that you are but one of many voices who also proclaim “Jesus is Lord.”
Finally, I’m profoundly disturbed that people like Driscoll are quickly becoming the faces and voices of the Protestant church. Check out this, this, this, and this and then explain to me why he/they should be the one/ones to speak for the rest of us. This sort of behavior and theology is not the church. Or at least it shouldn’t be. We are called to do better, to think better, to be better than the caricature of Christianity that the faith has become.
I’m not sure exactly how you change the status quo here. However, if the Arab Spring has taught us anything, it’s the power of the internet. Driscoll, McDonald, and the rest may not like it, but “the people” have a voice and a very powerful one at that. So, if you’re a pastor or theologian out there who also happens to be a blogger, then please continue to “fight the good fight”. Please continue to be a voice of reason and diversity in the cacophony of madness that is so often the American church. Always do so with love and grace, but do so courageously, knowing that your platform is no less valid than theirs simply because their church has 10,000 people in attendance and yours has 100 or because their blog gets 5,000 hits a day and yours get only 50.
If these guys really think that the blogs are not a helpful format for discussing then faith, then they should lead be example and take down their own blogs.
Grace and peace,