Inside, Outside: How Does the Blogosphere Impact the Secular World’s Impression of the Church?

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 (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, but the story got picked up over on – 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?

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18 thoughts on “Inside, Outside: How Does the Blogosphere Impact the Secular World’s Impression of the Church?

  1. Charles

    I have no sanity left to defend, so I went into the fark thread.

    I made it about a tenth of the way down the discussion thread before my brain melted from exposure to weapons-grade stupidity. I’m dead now. My brother Chris can have my comic books, and I request that my body be mummified and placed next to Stalin.

  2. J. K. Gayle

    Thanks for the post. It’s interesting that no body (insider or outsider) is all up in arms over what Phyllis Tickle has said on H. E. Double Hockey Sticks (aka “Hell”). Yes, I know, she’s been labeled a heretic by so many. But in her book The Words of Jesus: A Gospel of the Sayings of Our Lord with Reflections she says, “Hell, like the soul, may have been without specific definition or conceptualization for me for lo these many years,” as she’s talked through Darwin and more carefully through Jesus and his sayings (even all of his Hell sayings).

    Then there’s Frank Schaeffer, whose also wonderful book, Patience With God: Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism) works outside the insiderism (and has no beef with or props for the emergent church one way or another – although he does say, rightly, that “Pete Rollins writes with clarity and compelling conviction”). Schaeffer interacts with what Jesus says (including on hell) as well as how Evagrius Ponticus does. He blasts the suffocating (shall we say “hellish”) theological correctness of right-wing Christian evangelicals (of which he was very much an insider).

  3. Amanda

    One further thought: If blogs are the “new councils” is/should there be a way to set boundaries on blogs? I mean, we have blogs that have “SBL biblioblog” and “Christian Century blog” stickers on them, but they don’t really signify much. Should there be a ethical code of conduct that blogs should sign if they want the perk of being recognized as being part of the constructive dialogue surrounding theology and biblical studies? Not a doctrinal statement, but more of a “I promise to write articles that demonstrate the fruits of the spirit” type of statement of affirmation?

    1. Rod of Alexandria

      I think we should have like, different factions, based on affiliations. If the American Academy of Religion had a theo-blog/biblioblog section, I would consider joining. It gives me great pride that political jesus is an independent blog, under the heel of no man!

      I aim to misbehave!

      Okay, I’ll stop.

  4. Drew Costen

    “How do the events of this weekend impact the secular world’s impression of the Church?”

    I doubt the secular world’s impression of the Church could actually get worse, so I’m not too worried about that. At least this silliness has informed the world that not all of us Christians believe in everlasting torment in hell.

    1. Amanda

      True Drew,

      It has been interesting to see the whole topic with all the different views on hell be brought up for discussion. What I like is that even among the “scholars” and “experts” of evangelicalism there is diversity of thought on the topic.

  5. Pingback: A few links of interest | Theology in the News

  6. Optimistic Chad

    All kidding aside, what might it look like to actually make this a reality? A Christian bloggers’ council? Amanda, I throw my full support behind you in this endeavor. If the folks at Near Emmaus agree, then we would have 50% of the Christian blogging community on board already!

  7. Crystal

    I often DREAM of a real church council where the major issues of our day are up for scholarly discussion and meaningful debate. I can dream, right?

  8. Pingback: Week in Review: 03.05.2011 | Near Emmaus

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