Why Twitter is Stupid
Warning: this post may be offensive to people with absolutely no sense of humour:
Twitter can be a dangerous place for trying to do theology. Information sharing is one thing; but "tweeting" - is that a word? - theology is quite another.
Personally, theology is not easy at the best of times - you know, when you're listening to Air Supply or Metallica in your office and your Facebook friends like the last article you wrote. Theologians over the centuries have had to work very hard and long in order to provide the church with theology that not only remains faithful to God's Word, but theology that is also not easily misunderstood.
The type of preaching that drives me nuts goes like this:
A topic is stated (e.g., "Gluten Free Diets Are Biblical"), and then the preacher takes the congregation on a proof-texting safari through the Bible, without paying much attention to the context of the verse cited. As one learned theologian said, "context is half the interpretation." We are not Jehovah's Witnesses - actually, we are, if you think about it...but I digress.
Just consider the context of Paul saying, "I can do all things through him who gives me strength" (Phil 4:13). You can't just quote that before a baseball game, hoping to hit .500. You could if there was a shortage of hot-dogs at the game, though, but I digress.
Similarly, "tweeting" has two potential problems, as I see it:
1) You can very often prove or disprove the tweet. Or sometimes the tweet is outright false (i.e., stupid).
Consider this tweet: "You can't make God more pleased with you based on your obedience."
Well, that is both true and false. God's blessedness is infinite. He does not have passions like us. He is not more or less happy; he is not more or less sad because of what we do or don't do. He is infinitely happy.
God also has a benevolent love for his people that is unconditional. It does not depend upon anything we do. He simply loves us because he loves us. There is, however, the fact that the Scriptures very frequently remind believers they can please God as well as displease God (Col. 1:10; 1 Jn. 3:22; Heb. 11:6; Heb. 13:16; 1 Thess. 2:4; 2 Sam. 11:27; 2 Kings 17:18)
So the statement above requires a host of qualifications, explanations, demarcations, and pontifications in order to make any sense. It dies the death of a thousand qualifications. I wish it would just die, but I don't want to break the 6thcommandment.
Here is another by a prominent theologian: "The Law is not a checklist we keep but a benchmark we fail."
Romans 8:4. Enough said. Though, the reader should know that the context shows that Paul is clearly speaking about sanctification, not justification.
What is a checklist? Meaning: "things to be done, or points to be considered, used as a reminder."
Is the law to be done or considered? Of course (Ps. 119:15, 78, 97, 128) Are we able to? Yes. Anyone who reads their Bible with an ounce of care will find that we can keep the law (Ps. 119:168) Perfectly? No. That's why the Westminster documents speak of "sincere obedience" being acceptable to God.
So, is it a benchmark we fail? Yes and no. It all depends on what you mean. But what does the author mean? I have no idea.
In fact, by the time I'm done considering the many possible interpretations of this tweet, I'm rather annoyed that I've wasted so much time.
Here's another tweet from a published author: "Karma is what you believe in when belief in God's promiscuous grace is too scary, unpredictable, out of control and irreligious."
Are people allowed to drink and tweet? Multiplying adjectives and adverbs to make a point can be really annoying.
I'll give you karma: Galatians 6:6-10.
2) The other potential problem with tweeting is this:
It is sort of like a Protestant equivalent of the Pope's ex cathedra statements. We all have a pope in our belly, said Luther. Well, twitter has given the Protestant church a million popes who daily (sometimes hourly) pope off, I mean, pipe off one-liners as though they spent the first 10 years of their life living in a fortune cookie.
Oh, and if you ever find yourself speaking at a mega-conference, try saying this: "You are not a body with a soul; but a soul with a body."
That's Gnostic, but the people will think you're really profound.
And Twitter might just make you think you are really profound. As one friend said to me today,
"Twitter wisdom reminds me of an interview with David Carradine about Kung Fu. He told the interviewer that the best part was when the cast all sat around at night, thinking up profound things for Master Po to say that were actually complete gibberish. His favourite was 'Do not seek the answers. Seek only to understand the questions.' Priceless." Priceless, indeed.
Some will reply (tweet?): What about Thomas Watson? I quite agree. When you write like Thomas Watson, go ahead. But for the vast majority of you who don't have his gift, please refrain from doing theology in 140 characters. Just share pictures of your breakfast instead.
Ok, seriously: some guys do twitter well when it comes to theology. But if - and this is a big if - I have dissuaded just one person from tweeting theology who doesn't have the gift, then all the complaints that the Alliance receives on account of this blog post will have been worth it!
Mark Jones tweets regularly @MJBJKJJJTJMJ
TOPICS: Twitter; theology; stupidity;
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- God's Ambassadors: The Westminster Assembly as Candidates and Credentials Committee
- The Real John Knox
- Praying for Heretics: Irenaeus of Lyons' First Prayer for the Gnostics
- God's Ambassadors: The Westminster Assembly and the Reform of the English Pulpit, 1643-1653
- Ressourcement: Irenaeus of Lyons and His Answer to the Hyper-Spirituality of Gnosticism