This post is part of series we are calling “Ethics for Social Media & Theological Discourse.”  Here are the preceding posts: Intro; [1] the dangers of the screen-to-screen mode of communication; [2] Wisdom from the 17th Century; [3] John Dyer article at CT; [4] The Wisdom Literature on Speech; [5] A Confessional Aside.

This series of posts is feebly making suggestions for how we conduct theological discourse in the realm of cyberspace.  The distance (even anonymity) permitted in online interaction seems to be attended by a number of hazards, namely the temptation to be theologically careless with our words or to be  personally downright mean with our words.  The contention of this post is that a requirement for all Christian theological dialogue (online or offline!) is wonder.

If we are trembling over the wonder and beauty of the God we so passionately discuss from our keyboards or smartphones, we will be less likely to cast hurtful stones or to articulate irresponsibly.

I have been reading a lot of Karl Barth recently.  In his Evangelical Theology, he has a chapter on “wonder” in which he calls for a continual astonishment over theology’s subject matter:

“If such astonishment is lacking, the whole enterprise of even the best theologian would canker at the roots.  On the other hand, as long as even a poor theologian is capable of astonishment, he is not lost to the fulfillment of his task.  He remains serviceable as long as the possibility is left open that astonishment may seize him like an armed man” [1].

Our impassioned theological discussions sometimes result in someone (verbally) trying to “seize” his/her interlocutor “like an armed man.”  The theological task is best undertaken by those who are already seized by the nonpareil grandeur of God rather than by those who are quick to make their own triumphant seizures.

Paul himself is overcome with wonder after his laborious, theological argumentation throughout Romans 1-11—so overcome, in fact, that he blurts out, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and inscrutable his ways!” (v. 33).

Oddly, the motivation of theological discourse is often winning instead of worshiping.  In heated debates both today and in ages past, Christians sometimes act as if the goal in discussing theology is to conquer our opponent rather than to worship our Lord.  This is not the goal of theology.

The online setting can be so helpful in promoting constructive dialogue about God.  But the ease and the expediency technology permits with the glowing “Publish” or “Send” icons do not encourage well-crafted replies grounded in a worshipful wonder over the One at the center of our discourse.  The innovation of the Internet requires us to develop a range of new disciplines as Christians.  One of them is taking the time to seep in the wonder and astonishment of God before we blog, Tweet, or make hasty comments about Him.

 

 

 

 

[1] Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1963), 64.


2 thoughts on “Social Media & Theological Discourse [5]: The Necessity of Wonder

  1. I read an interview the other day with Timothy Keller (pastor of Redeemer Pres NYC) that seems relevant to this series. The interviewer asked Keller why it took him 20 plus years of pastoral ministry before he began to seriously publish books. Keller’s reply (I paraphrase): he wanted to pray through, think through, and preach through his material within the context of his parish before moving to a wider audience. Keller’s model challenges us all to “burn away the chaff” of undisciplined, uncharitable first reactions within the slow burning fire of contextualized, accountable (that is to say pastoral) theological reflection within community.

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