I’ve been reading about some of the early Church councils and the politics and drama that surrounded them. Take the Second Council of Ephesus as an example. Dioscorus, head of the assembly, had been given authority to determine who could even speak at the council. Pope Leo’s representatives who were there to read a letter on behalf of the Pope were denied. The council’s declaration was that the doctrine of Christ having “two natures” was heretical, and anyone who believed in such a doctrine would not be able to be ordained. Leo was absolutely ticked and nicknamed the council “The Robber’s Synod.” Two years later, a new council at Chalcedon was convened, and this time it set out a paradigm, not a creed, on the nature of Christ, namely that He is one person, with two distinct yet inseparable natures – divine and human.
All throughout Church history there have been councils and meetings and debates and even wars within the Church. The Great Schism of 1054. The Protestant Reformation, with the Protestants and Catholics taking turns labeling each other as “anathema.” The brouhaha in the Evangelical Theological Society over Open Theism, several years ago, that had people calling for Clark Pinnock and John Sanders to be expelled from the Society.
But, all of these have largely been in-house. While the broader secular society may have maybe heard about these disputes, they were for the most part kept “in the family.”
But what about this weekend? You know the hoopla to which I’m referring, the one that has managed to propel a certain, not-even-released-yet book to number 20 on Amazon.com (that’s rank 20 overall, not just in Christian spirituality. Not bad for a book that’s only available as a pre-order).
How has the blogosphere changed an in-house theological dispute? Up until yesterday, I would have said, “it’s okay, only the Christian bloggers care.” But then, not only did the drama end up on CNN.com, but the story got picked up over on Fark.com – a news aggregate and community forum that is viewed by millions. (For your sanity’s sake, don’t go into the thread over at Fark. The number one rule I’ve learned about being a member over at Fark, never comment in religion or politics threads).
In the past, most of our squabbles have happened within the confines of the Church. They have happened in fairly structured settings, such as councils, society meetings, etc. And there has been some level of authority in and through the process.
Is the blogosphere the new council? Where is the authority? What are the boundaries as to how the discussion should proceed? Should we be airing our issues for all the world to see in such a public format?
How do the events of this weekend impact the secular world’s impression of the Church?