Is the Internet the enemy of faith?

Mario Tama GETTY IMAGES Ultra-Orthodox Jews take in the view from Citi Field at a meeting to discuss the risks … Continued

Mario Tama

GETTY IMAGES

Ultra-Orthodox Jews take in the view from Citi Field at a meeting to discuss the risks of using the Internet on May 20, 2012 in the Queens borough of New York City.

The Mets might not be selling out Citi Field, but the Orthodox Jews did. Just a few days ago, more than 40,000 Orthodox Jewish men and boys filled the stadium for a gathering intended to consider the dangers of the Internet – dangers to their souls.

That gathering is just one indicator of the concerns many people have about the Internet. Like the Orthodox Jews at Citi Field, most evangelical Christians see real and present dangers on the Internet, ranging from pornography to a loss of authentic communication and human relatedness. Thanks to the Internet, a toxic dump of pornography is just a click away, destroying lives and souls. Even for those who resist and escape pornography, the Internet has tempted many people to substitute online relationships and conversations for the old fashioned kind – face-to-face.

The Internet offers endless chatter and distraction. It sometimes seems that the entire population is suffering from a shared case of attention deficit syndrome. On the Web, irresponsible voices are just as accessible as trustworthy voices. Often, it seems that the voices of reason and truth are drowned out by the swarm of the reckless, the vulgar, and the ridiculous.

At the same time, the Internet has been one of the greatest gifts to the church, offering unprecedented opportunities to communicate, share content, establish contact, and deliver our message.

How can the Internet be both bane and blessing? In truth, virtually every technology offers the same mix of blessing and curse. The Internet offers great gifts, but it also threatens with its dangers. The same could be said of television, radio, and the printing press.

In any event, the Internet is now a fact – one of the most significant realities of our times. Christians have learned to use the Internet to deliver content on a global scale. The Bible can now be read online, even as sermons, messages, and other Christian content is available everywhere and all the time. The Internet allows the Christian message to penetrate where it has never been heard before and to overcome political barriers – even the Great “Firewall” of China.

Still, there are huge concerns. The dark side of the Internet has facilitated the retreat of some people into a virtual world, leaving the real world behind. Some even participate in so-called “digital churches,” but Christians need the fellowship and accountability that can only be found in the local church. Christians can learn much from on-line preachers, but we need to hear sermons preached by flesh-and-blood preachers in the real-time experience of Christian worship.

As the late French theologian-philosopher Jacques Ellul would remind us, every technology comes with its own imperatives. Teenagers now feel guilty if they are not constantly connected to friends. Increasingly, their parents feel the same guilt. The Internet can produce a radical sense of information overload and mental distraction, harming our ability to read, to listen, and to reflect.

The Internet is not the enemy of faith. It is, however, one of the most significant technological and social developments in human history. To most younger people, a church without a Web address simply does not exist. As a Christian leader, I invest a great deal of my time and energy on the Internet, producing content, delivering a message, engaging in discussion, and observing the cultural conversation.

The Internet is now the first and most immediate source of news, the most accessible form of information, and the most efficient way of reaching people. To be absent from the Internet is to be absent from many of the most important conversations and debates of our times.

Of course, the dark side is always close at hand. Christians have known for 2,000 years that we are to be “in the world, but not of the world.” The same holds true for the Internet. There is no way to avoid the Internet and remain relevant to the cultural conversation. And yet, a digital preacher is not going to preach your funeral, nor visit you in the hospital.

The online world turns out to be much like the world we knew before the Internet – a world of great blessings and grave dangers. Acknowledging this dual reality is a first step toward achieving digital sanity.

I fully sympathize with those Orthodox Jews who assembled in City Field to consider the dangers of the Internet. They are right to be concerned that the Internet can do grave damage to our souls. But, even as we know this, we need also to know that the gathering in City Field was streamed on the Internet so that people could watch at home. We need the Internet to facilitate our discussions of the Internet’s dangers. That just about says it all.

You might say that Christians are called to be on the Internet, but not of it. As a matter of fact, you are probably reading this on the Internet. Thanks for reading. Case closed.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Read More On Faith and the Internet:

Rachel Held Evans: The Internet is a blessing

Hemant Mehta: Why religion fears information

Doubting Mormons go online

  • Secular1

    “Often, it seems that the voices of reason and truth are drowned out by the swarm of the reckless, the vulgar, and the ridiculous.” This I agree with you. Only trouble is that you and your ilk are the so called “reckless, the vulgar and the malicious”.

  • SimonTemplar

    Careful Secular, you’ll wear yourself out waving that broad brush of bigotry around like that.

  • SimonTemplar

    The web is just another form of communication like the printing press and the radio and the television, as the author has stated. There are difference though,between now and the days before the web. In the past one had to have some qualifications to get their ideas in print. They also had to know how to do the hard work of research and list sources other than Wikipedia.

    The irony is, this lazy-mans world of “knowledge” which requires no more discipline than the ability to type search terms with less than accurate phonetic spelling skills is likely to lead to the degradation of critical thinking.

  • PhilyJimi

    This article is spot on. It is the Internet pornography that is creating problems for the faithful, it is the knowledge that is available at your finger tips. I wouldn’t be a full blown atheist if it wasn’t for the web and all of the information out there. I would of most likely ended up as some kind of wishy washy spiritual new age woo-woo type.

    I really don’t see a way around this for the religions of the world. The more you share ideas the easier to see what side is trying to sell a product that isn’t real and never produces any results. Want to know if any religion is bunk just ask it’s opposing religions why it isn’t real. Even Christians can’t define who and what Jesus was or is.

  • PhilyJimi

    Your argument is a red herring. Accurate phonetic and spelling skills have nothing to do with critical thinking.

    You apply critical thinking skills to the stories of a 2000 year old book of zombie god tales about a jealous manic who threatens to burn everyone forever if they don’t love him. This zombie god also faked his own death for 3 days in order to atone for a fruit eating crime of a rib woman who talked to snakes. Let’s not even get into the world wide flood and living in a fish/whale for few days.

  • ccnl1

    From http://www.earlychristianwritings.com – some excerpts

    The numbers on the left are for an estimated range of dating.

    30-60 Passion Narrative

    40-80 Lost Sayings Gospel Q

    50-60 1 Thessalonians

    50-60 Philippians

    50-60 Galatians

    50-60 1 Corinthians

    50-60 2 Corinthians

    50-60 Romans

    50-60 Philemon

    50-80 Colossians

    50-90 Signs Gospel

    50-95 Book of Hebrews

    50-120 Didache

    50-140 Gospel of Thomas

    50-140 Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel

    50-200 Sophia of Jesus Christ

    65-80 Gospel of Mark

    30-60

    Passion Narrative

    40-80

    Lost Sayings Gospel Q

    50-60

    1 Thessalonians

    50-60

    Philippians

    50-60

    Galatians

    50-60

    1 Corinthians

    50-60

    2 Corinthians

    50-60

    Romans

    50-60

    Philemon

    50-80

    Colossians

    50-90

    Signs Gospel

    50-95

    Book of Hebrews

    50-120

    Didache

    50-140

    Gospel of Thomas

    50-140

    Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel

    50-200

    Sophia of Jesus Christ

    65-80

    Gospel of Mark

  • xexon

    Faith is what you have until you have spiritual vision.

    Religion, “belief”, is braille for the spiritually blind. It’s easy to guide the blind because they have no way of validating what you say is true or not.

    The internet is a neutral element. It has a mixture of chaff and wheat. It’s up to your individual abilty to decide which is which. And since the path is an individual one, only you can decide this for yourself. Be wary of what other people “think”.

    x

  • ThomasBaum

    Restore it to what?

    White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, Male, landowner!

    Or do you prefer to restore it to it’s previous occupants?

  • ThomasBaum

    SimonTemplar

    You wrote, “In the past one had to have some qualifications to get their ideas in print.”

    This is not quite true, there was plelnty of garbage written in print before the internet.

  • ThomasBaum

    alfiefinnell

    You wrote, “Even mother goose does not have any of the characters that walk on water, move several ton boulders while dead, part seas, feed a thousand with a few fish, light bushes on fire with a look, etc.”

    Mother goose also didn’t create absolutely everying created out of nothing.

    Don’t worry, you’ll meet God in due time, God’s Time, see you and the rest of humanity in the Kingdom.

  • SODDI

    “Faith” NEEDS enemies. For centuries, christians used the Jews as their enemy. We all know how that turned out for the Jews. Then it was Islam; then science and modernism and gays.

    Now you have christians like baptist preacher Charles L. Worley raising the threat of throwing gays into concentration camps – no empty threat, because christians HAVE thrown their fellow human beings into concentration camps and slaughtered them by the millions.

    Anyone with two holes up their nose can see that the real “threat” isn’t gays or the Internet or contraception, but christianity itself.

  • malusk03

    It is Mohler’s version of Christianity, not the internet, which is the enemy of faith.

  • GeniusPhx

    It’s understandable religions dont want us on the internet; where we might find out the Bible was never meant to be true, or historical, or the word of a god. It was meant to give us wisdom to live by. When people go to college religious and come out atheist, there is a reason. School teaches us how to think, question, research….all mortal sins to the religious.

  • Rongoklunk

    “Faith is believing what you know ain’t true.” Mark Twain.

  • Rongoklunk

    The internet is the information highway. And if anything is the enemy of religion it’s information – about everything; knowledge in other words. So superstitions are dying. Astrology and alchemy died years ago. Religion is dying now, especially outside the US. The god-hypothesis defies commonsense. We don’t need gods to explain what we don’t understand. We have science now, which is doing an incredible job of explaining reality to us – much better than religion ever could.

    In this modern world of science and technology, religion no longer makes sense to anyone except the deluded and brainwashed.

  • ccnl1

    And Thomas knows all because he talks to his god on daily basis.

  • car253

    The enemy of faith is the bad behavior of religous people. Noisy churches shows disrespect for others. Churches do not “love their neighbor” when they blast their noise. Stop the noise.

  • DRJJJ

    The secularization of church and state movement and the macro evolution cult are the enemy and they seem to like the internet! Must be all the free porn?

  • Sandra19

    I agree that the internet is merely a tool and can be used for good or evil. That said, it seems to me that evil thrives on the internet while good gets shouted down far too often. It also seems, to me, that the internet attracts people who aren’t very good at interacting with others in the real world. Add religious zeal to the kinds of personalities that thrive on the web, and you’ve got a match made in hell.

    I’ve yet to find religious sites on the web that don’t rapidly decline into sheer nastiness pretty quickly. Religious bloggers think they’re all speaking for God Himself, and the comboxes of religious blogs and websites are cesspools of hate and snark and judgment.

    The worst offenders are always saying how Jesus would absolutely use the internet, but He wouldn’t. Jesus was all about meeting individuals where they were, not pontificating from above, and certainly not doing so anonymously. He looked people in the eye, He never snarked or jeered. He didn’t get his friends to pile on others. He didn’t deliberately stir up trouble and then delight in the strife He had caused. He didn’t turn His Father into a personally profitable cottage industry (that kind of thing got Him _really_ angry, AAMOF).

    Religion on the internet is never good. It’s like sex on the internet. It takes something private and beautiful and mysterious and pimps it out for profit, trampling it in filth along the way.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Or the free access to the intellect of a humorless neanderthal such as yourself. Simply fascinating.

  • DRJJJ

    Free internet porn for kids at a push of a button sure is!

  • DRJJJ

    Religion on the internet isn’t good! But essential Christian doctrine/our National faith, the gosple, is needed badly!

  • ccnl1

    Putting the kibosh/”google” on religion to include Mormonism:

    • There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    prob•a•bly
    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    “The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother’s womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. “

  • solquin

    It’s not a good sign when you encounter something like the internet with anything but excitement. At its core, the internet is an absolutely uncensored exchange of information. You have two reasons to fear this: You are afraid you are not intelligent enough to evaluate the value of an idea on your own, and therefore need the assistance of a censor, or you are afraid that your own ideas are not going to withstand scrutiny. Unlike in your local church, your ideas aren’t accepted by default. If you browse the internet for any period of time, people believe all sorts of stupid things on faith. People aren’t going to believe you just because you post some unverifiable anecdote. If faith is your only support, you’re gonna have a bad time on the internet.

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