John Dyer, over at Christianity Today’s
blog web-only article, has a problem with bloggers. (Here’s a link to his blog.) The problem he has with bloggers is that they have no restraint, that they are incapable of reflective self-criticism, and that social media does not allow for any kind of discussion:
Social media relentlessly asks us to publish our personal opinions on anything and everything that happens. There is no time for reflection in prayer, no place for discussion with other flesh and blood image bearers, and no incentive to remain silent.
(The subtle implication of the “flesh-and-blood” bit being, of course, that people who may comment on blog posts are not actually real people.)
This is a problem because the general public is too stupid to be involved in the public expression of theology:
Throughout the history of public theological debate, there was one constant—those debates only took place between a few select people—Moses, Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, and so on—who gained respect through a lifetime of scholarship.
But the invention of social media, like blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, created a radical departure in communication. In pre-2004 Christianity (that is, Christianity before Facebook was invented), only a small group of Christian leaders and teachers had access to the printing press—but today everyone has WordPress.
His solution is that the dangerous business of having opinions should be left to the trained elite:
What I am doing is taking a side against all of us regular average Joe and Jane Christians who have given into the value system of modern technology which tells us that if we don’t publish we don’t exist.
I say, let the teachers teach and let them be judged more strictly.
This is the error that he is trying to avoid:
We are making the shift away from merely “believing” truth and stepping into the arena of publishing that belief.
His point is that “social media has changed the way those debates take place among everyday Christians”, but of course it hasn’t. Before people spread their opinions on Facebook they spread them person-to-person over coffee, in Bible studies, Wednesday groups or wherever. What he claims is new - publishing belief - is not new at all. We have always published belief because all speech is published belief. All that is different now is that the volume has been turned up slightly.
To me this shows that the real problem he has is not with the technology of blogging, (which has given a louder voice to people who would still be using that voice over coffee, over Bible studies, on Wednesday nights and so on) but with the idea of ordinary Christians having opinions.
The job of “regular average Joe and Jane Christians” (and I wonder where he got the idea that in God’s eyes there is such a thing as a “regular average Christian”), in Dyer’s mind, is to never think of thinking for themselves at all, but to passively receive the blessed wisdom of the ordained teachers.
We last fought that battle four hundred years ago; and, at least for Protestants, Dyer’s argument lost.