The world is at our fingertips. Countless internet sites and pages, endless hours of podcasts and videos, the information download possibilities are innumerable. But can we exist there? Can we live in the land of zeros and ones? Has religion gone digital?
Going viral is the disease infecting Christians everywhere. The idea that worship can be done in your computer chair or that text messages to the pastor during his message are considered at all blow my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I like my computer chair and I txt ppl, FYI. But, because something is a possibility does it mean we should use it? Perhaps humility and active listening skills are foregone conclusions of the modern church.
It’s a scam as old as time but becoming a minister of “Who Knows Universal Church of God and Planets and other Celestial Beings” is easy to do on the web. Learning about a religion online is a cakewalk. However, the substantive nature of any religion is always lacking when the religious people we study are only 5% battery life away from saying goodbye. While the information is out there, a google search away, it isn’t the whole picture. People matter. St. Paul wasn’t satisfied with merely writing his letters, as important as they were and are for us today. A desire to be with those to whom he wrote, to see them face to face, was his constant refrain. His persistent appeal was that the reader would listen to those sent to them, that they hear the preached word of God. Written letters, an important ancient technology, just wouldn’t suffice as a substitute.
So there is a lesson here, platforms like this blog and everything else the internet has to offer are potentially wonderful things. I learn many things about other people and religions through what might be my only opportunity to know them, through the internet. I can formulate an idea of what someone believes through what they say or write on the internet. But they aren’t simply shadows, they are real people. Real people who don’t need internet trolls. Real people who hopefully will read and hear good things, true things, over all the noise of the world wide web. Real people need a real Jesus, substitutes won’t do.
Christians know Jesus personally not because we’ve seen him but because he says something that no other religion can ever say. Jesus is the word made flesh (Cf. John 1:1). God originates the world through only the spoken word, the world is created and is under the authority of God with merely a word from his mouth. When Christians hear the word of God, Scripture revealed to men and written by God’s Word yet in the hand of men, we hear God’s voice and see Jesus face-to-face.
In the end it isn’t a pitting of face-to-face verses face-time. It’s how does the technology, ancient and modern, allow us to know a person personally? And, does that technology deliver the truth in such a way that who we are as a Christian church is not destroyed in the process? Religion exists within humanity, and true religion cannot exist without a real God. The real God, our Triune Lord, isn’t merely a click away he’s living and active among his creation–shouldn’t we be too (Cf. Hebrews 4:12-13)?