Can You Trust Internet Bloggers As A Source Of Theology?

Picture of pastors who attended the first "Elephant Room"
In a recent article at the Out Of UR Blog the author interacts with several pastors on a video who are discussing the issue of bloggers as being a source of doctrine or opinion.  The article states,
"During the first minute and thirty seconds, several members of the group react harshly against Christian bloggers as sources of doctrine or opinion. Painting them as limpwristed, “loving, inclusive guys” living “in their mom’s basement,” the group dismisses Internet-based writers as legitimate sources of doctrinal opinion or interpretation.
This dismissive response of a panel of high profile pastors to the general blogosphere garnered a sharp reaction by bloggers like Zack Hunt over at The American Jesus
The small spat raises big questions. How does the church view authority in a digital environment? How do we determine if a given voice – whether blogger or pastor – is reliable to shape our theology and practice? 
Is legitimacy determined only by the massive number of followers of a celebrity pastor or blogger? If that’s not enough, then what gives weight to the words we speak, type, shout or tweet?"
This was a very interesting read and the source of doctrine in blogging is a very valid subject to consider.  What I find missing from conversations like this, is the role of an objective "statement of faith" or the "historical creeds."  It seems to me that the questions posed above could be answered if we would consider the importance of the church's historical confessions.

For example:
Question:  How do we determine if a given voice --whether blogger or pastor -- is reliable to shape our theology and practice?  Is legitimacy determined only by the massive number of followers of a celebrity pastor or blogger?  If that's not enough, then what gives weight to the words we speak, type, shout or tweet?
Answer:  I agree that pastoral legitimacy is not determined by a pragmatic assessment (i.e. if they have a mega-church then they must be theologically sound).  But how do we determine whether a given voice is legitimate to shape our theology and practice?  For myself I typically read bloggers that are anchored and sourced in confessions that are larger and much older than the blogger himself.  If the blogger doesn't have the foggiest idea what the Apostle's Creed, Nicene Creed or the Athanasian Creed are about, I typically don't waste my time reading their material.  Thus I would deferentiate between bloggers who simply are restless and reactionary versus those that blog from a confessional and historical context.  For myself I do my best on PM Notes to not be a source of new theology but merely write from a context of theology that is above and over me thus never introducing anything new but speaking a message that echoes from our heritage of Lutheranism.  
Simply put, how do we determine if a given voice is reliable to shape our theology and practice?  We determine if it is reliable on the basis of the scriptures, the church's historical creeds and the denominational doctrinal confessions (i.e. for myself and other Lutherans, that is the Book of Concord and our denominational statement of faith).

Without the Word, the objective Historical Creeds and a Statement of Faith, I am afraid that it would be all to easy to be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.

(Note: If you are interested, I have listed 6 documents and 18 Historical and Contemporary Theological Influences that govern and shape the theology of the PM Notes blog.  They are listed at the About Page.)


I'm actually just beginning a blog and have thought along these lines at one point. The inherent responsibilities that come with a blog is such that it can actually teach someone or lead them astray.
My tradition (Southern Baptist) tend to be weak-minded and legalistic so I have thought that one good way to get people in our congregation thinking outside of their inherited presuppositions that form their theology would be to begin a blog. But because of the reason I mention above I wonder if it is wise.
However, on the other hand after having read Luther and many others of the reformation tradition the Gospel has actually become "great news" that needs to be told within my church. So I'm between a "rock and a hard place."
I think the issue is to not teach beyond what you know to understand and as you say to not attempt to say something new. I try to parrot much of what I read/hear from those I have learned that "rightly divide" scripture.
Great post man!
Anonymous said…
I like how you mentioned not just the technology side (blogs), but also mega churches and trusting pastors. There are so many people out who just assume that if information comes from a leaders in the church it must be accurate and never compare it to scripture.
Anonymous said…
For myself, as a layperson, in my blog for Canadian Lutheran Online, I have all my postings checked for theological correctness by first my pastor and then the theological review board for the Canadian Lutheran. I would not ever post a blog, or for that matter submit an article for print, without requesting an expert set of eyes to review it. Even someone who knows our theology well can misspeak in such a way that someone could misunderstand.

In reading the blogs of others, I check the "about" and "home" pages to see who they are as regards to their theology. I also see what links they have, which is another indicator. Another indicator is who referred me or linked to their blog page. But ultimately, we have to know our own theology well - Creeds, Book of Concord, etc. - so that we can know when something is not in accordance with them .
Hey Mitchell,

Right on.

Several thoughts as you begin this journey.

-In making a blog I would suggest putting your presuppositions out front so people know where you are coming from. With PM Notes I try not to deceive anyone. I want them to know that I am coming from a Lutheran perspective. I think this helps unity in Christendom, not hinder it.

-Secondly, what will govern your thoughts and hold you accountable theologically speaking? In other words, what anchors you and is continually shaping you? For me it is the following: The Bible, The Book of Concord, Walther's Law and Gospel, Luther's Heidelberg Disputation.

-Thirdly, who is your audience? For me it is fellow Lutherans and Recovering/Post Evangelicals. With this in mind I attempt to stay inside these parameters. Also, this helps me understand that it isn't my business to hit every issue in Christianity.

As far as blogging. Here is what I have learned.

-Be consistent. Post once a week, every day, or every other day, etc... the point is to keep it consistent.

-Better to be shorter than longer. Keep posts to the point and keep posts to a 2-3 minute reading length.

Alright! Enough for now. Off to play with the kids!

Anonymous said…
It depends on what they write...they are no different than an author or a's our responsibility to be in the Word and have proper theology. From and through our own study of the Word we grow the ability to discern between false teachers and Godly teachers...whether in real life or in blogs.
Alden said…
I actually think it's a silly question, or at least badly phrased, unless I am missing the point (I confess, I didn't read the article but am just responding to the question posed). What makes "internet bloggers" any different than anyone else? The blog is simply a tool, really no different than the early tracts of Martin Luther. They carry no authority, except should they correctly represent Scripture. Can we trust John Piper, Brian McLaren or Augustine? Not as a source of truth or authority. Personally, I don't even rely on the Book of Concord; if we stop there when looking for truth, we've stopped short.

Now, the question does not say "as a source of truth," but "as a source of theology." Then certainly, everyone who voices an opinion is a source of theology or opinion. The question perhaps should be "as a valuable source." Then, it depends on whether it correctly reflects the Bible, etc, and a blogger is no different than the guy leading a Bible study down the street or Jonathan Edwards.

All authorities of the "old guard" - whether it be the Pope or the current theological establishment - are suspicious and threatened of any new voices, if they are insecure and need to assert themselves as a source of authority. However, if they are themselves humble and are relying on scripture for their authority, their focus should not be on the medium, but on the message.
Cindy Stokes said…
Sometimes, bloggers are a good source for me when I am trying to get a handle on bad theology. Some people come so far from left field I hardly know where to begin. Some heretics are as slippery as jello and sometimes bloggers are a good source for me to know where in the Bible to go to to nail down where they're going wrong. I think if you give yourself a good education, though, on the history of heresy, bad theology starts to scream out at you. You definitely can't get your grounding on the Internet but from the word of God and from educated men who have already established themselves in the history of theolgy and are in most cases dead.