Many act as if modern Christians face unparalleled challenges to our faith, but that’s really not true. Most of the questions raised today by believers and unbelievers alike have been wrestled with throughout church history.
One thing has changed, however. Historically, Christians took their questions to leaders at their local church and, eventually, larger gatherings of pastors and theologians. Today, we take ours to Facebook.
I’m not one who believes social media is to blame for the ills of this world. Facebook doesn’t create fake news. Twitter doesn’t make people mean.
Social media often does, however, reveal unhealthy attitudes in our hearts and provide an avenue for those to be spread and shared like a virus infecting many who read and participate.
One of the attitudes that social media cultivates in our hearts is the quest for justification apart from Christ. We are constantly looking for others to approve of us, like us, agree with us.
In This Is Our Time, Trevin Wax writes that one of the myths we learn from smartphones is that we are always right. We surround ourselves with people who believe similarly to ourselves, so we only read articles that affirm our preconceived beliefs.
Here’s what Trevin said when I asked him about that in a Q&A about This Is Our Time:
The danger of only visiting websites or authors that you agree with is that whenever they present an opposing perspective they don’t always present that point of view its very best. People will present the opposing view in the way that’s easiest to knock down.
When that happens, you begin to think, “Well clearly, people that don’t agree with me must be either stupid because it’s so obvious they’re wrong or they must be evil because they know their perspective makes no sense and yet they cling to it anyway. It really shuts down conversation in the United States and causes us assume the worst of the people that are on the opposite side of the political aisle from us.
When we refuse to engage with others and constantly feel affirmed in our own rightness that leads to the shrinking of our souls. It leads to a diminished dialogue. We may feel better about ourselves and our own perspective, but we’ve lost the ability to actually understand the point of view of someone else.
While that may primarily be exposed in our political leanings, it does the same for our theological positions. We often gravitate toward beliefs we have or those we want to be true.
Social media has become the new church council. But instead of using it to determine truth and error, we use it as a means for justifying and defending any theological position, no matter how unbiblical.
Humans have an unlimited capacity for self-delusion going all the way back to the garden. Satan may have started the temptation, but Adam and Eve bought the lie because they wanted to believe it was true.
They wanted to be like God and they wanted the fruit to grant them such power.
Today, we aren’t confronted with talking serpents challenging Scripture, but we do see social media updates and blog posts whispering that we can ignore or distort those verses and passages we don’t like.
We no longer bring the questions to others in our local church in an attempt to gain wisdom and insight into Scripture, much less have official church councils.
In the early days of the church, leaders would gather and debate contentious points of theology. One of the earliest gatherings, The First Council of Nicaea, centered around the difference between two words separated only by a single letter.
Church councils aren’t a perfect means of determining truth. They are comprised of fallible men who could make mistakes in their understanding and application of Scripture.
But it is not an upgrade to dismiss centuries of the church’s consistent testimony on issues like sexuality, marriage, justice, the value of life, care for refugees and more for a blog post or social media status that sounds kinda convincing and lines up with your personal or political views.
We can say, “I found this on Facebook” instead of actually studying Scripture and church history. We hold on to bad theology and sinful practices simply because we saw a blog post online that gives us false justification.
If you look hard enough, you can always find someone who will respond to your question about God’s teaching with a centuries old question: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’”
But dismissing God’s word will never lead you to truth—no matter how many likes or retweets it gets.