The digital age is not only upon us, it’s almost permanently in our hands, filling our eyes with back-lit glare. Teenagers today will not remember a time before smart phones, 4G internet and social media. My mum is a teacher and has taught kids who swipe pages of books with their finger, having never encountered a medium that wasn’t a touch screen.
But what does this mean for theology? When I was a teenager, we really only had books, and how many 90s teens could be bothered to read much between playing Goldeneye on the N64, feeding their Tamagotchi, or actually going to see friends on the face-to-face book? I nostalgically digress.
The point I’m making is, theological opinions were pretty scarce, unless you were some sort of theology geek frequenting the library – maybe with your Walkman in your pocket. You had what your church taught you and maybe you’d hear something or someone slightly different at a Bible camp, or youth festival. But even then it was mainly a Greek fella talking about ‘Cakey’.
Nowadays, if you’re even slightly connected to other Christians on social media, you will very likely have come across articles, videos or audio clips that contain ideas you’ve never encountered before. Depending on how openly theological your friends are (and how many you have), you could have a daily slew of preachy posts, topical tweets, and Instagram platitudes flying at your bewildered – or fascinated – face.
For me, this has provided a brand new, immersive world. A labyrinth of discovery that has led to some deeply needed revelation. I had a personal crisis in 2014 that sent me into a theological tail-spin. All I thought I knew was challenged and it affected everything. Theology was partly my undoing, but it was actually theology I discovered online that was my route out of madness.
It’s open season on ideas out there. For some, this means a dangerous level of false teaching and worldly ideals are potentially influencing people. For others, this is introducing them to vast new vistas of understanding and insight.
I have made incredible new friendships around the world in theological circles online – and no, they are not just ‘virtual’. I am going to Hong Kong and China in January to share ideas with a dear friend I made through blogging. I have run conferences where most people attending had already become close on Facebook. I’ve hosted guest teachers from the States and South Africa. People are talking and sharing ideas and I personally find this very exhilarating and exciting.
If you are willing to think and be challenged, there has never been so much information at your fingertips at any point in human history. We live in extraordinary times when a person can engage and learn from others around the world in real time. We should be open to new ideas and insights, so long as we trust that Jesus is the author and perfect of our faith – not our theology. God is going to have to forgive all of our theology, no one has perfect understanding, ‘ for now we see in part, but one day we will see in full’.
Diving in to the world of online theology and engaging is good for us, it’s fun, social and challenging. We can learn so much, and I believe it’s a vehicle driving us to huge shifts in the church and wider culture.