Doing Theology on Social Media!
While every believer does theology, in so far as he thinks about God and the Bible, the advent of the internet and social media has also brought about the rise of the google theologian, the cut and paste minister or more aptly put: the armchair theologian. An armchair theologian is one, similar to the armchair expert, who presumes expertise in areas he has little understanding, experience or robust involvement in.
Much of the theology being done on social media often comes across as nothing more than the unsolicited and unprocessed notions of an armchair theologian. Now, I’m by no means suggesting that theology should be left to the experts. Every believer must be growing in knowledge, love and application of the truth and that really necessitates doing theology. However, my concern lies with the way it is being done, especially on social media and without sounding pejorative, mainly by what I call the armchair theologian.
Armed with google, access to ‘discernment’ ministries and aware of various respected pastors, Bible scholars and bloggers he presumes himself keenly informed and deeply knowledgeable by virtue of familiarity or impersonal associations. We find ourselves in the most unique period in the history the church in that the accessibility to theological and Scriptural resources is unparalleled.
However, what has not changed, in spite of our unparalleled access to knowledge, is the responsibility and commitment to think hard, long, carefully and graciously about what we are exposed to and to think about these things along with others who have been doing it longer than we have and better than we have. It is truly risky business to present as an argument or an articulation something we merely googled then cut and paste without having thought carefully through it along with someone of greater understanding and skill.
The danger of the armchair theologian is not only his often lamentable lack of strenuous labor over the Scriptures in prayer and faithful exegesis, or his unfamiliarity with the dynamics of historical theology, or even the little change his exposure to the truth has resulted in his own life. Apart from those serious deficiencies, the thing that concerns me the most about the armchair theologian is his unskilled swordsmanship, or to put it another way, his inability to understand how to use what he presumes he knows.
It appears that as much good as the internet, social media and the proliferation of theological resources has brought about, for the one wrongly approaching it, it can be more harmful than fruitful. Our pursuit to learn the truth should equally be a pursuit to learn how to use it in love, humility, wisdom and grace, and with great respect to our finiteness.
Love accounts for how we use the truth in relation to other people. Humility means we realize that we have not begun to know as much as we think we have. Wisdom in the truth helps us to become skillful in terms of testing all things and applying that which is true and that which we truly understand. And grace helps us to know that the truth we love and cherish has been revealed perfectly in Jesus Christ who paid a dear price for us to know not mere truth and theology but to know truth and theology to the glory of Christ and our enjoyment of Him!
Doing theology on social media can be a great means to build-up one another and give witness of our faith to others. Theology on social media should come from a clear and humble understanding of the truth that shows not only that we know but that we know in love, we know in grace, we know in wisdom, we know in sweet fellowship with Him our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
In the words of one theologian, “Faith seeks the truth of God that wants not only to be known by the mind but is to be enjoyed and practiced by the whole person. Theology as thoughtful faith comes from and returns to the service of God and the neighbor!” (Daniel Migliore). Theology is thoughtful faith, and it comes from God and should translate into service to God and others – even on social media!