Friday, March 18, 2011

A great analogy

Kevin Johnson wrote a post last year and was looking at the phenomena of “real life” in an age of online entertainment, Not Much More Than Theological Gamesmanship :

For anyone who plays computer games online (I enjoy Eve Online on occasion), the acronym “RL” is often used when some players bemoan that they must leave the game and return to Real Life. The abbreviation is an artificial distinction, to be sure, as all of life is real–even the time we spend on Facebook or just plain surfing the web.

I enjoy theological discussion as much as the next person and believe that through many of these discussions we can still find the truth of a particular matter if we walk carefully through the dialogical minefield and keep our heads about us. After all, theological discussion has been one of the chief ways the Christian Church over the ages has come to an understanding of the truth.

But, living the truth in question becomes an entirely different affair. I see precious little positive action attached to many of the discussions we often have in Reformedville or our world would be a vastly different place than it is. We must at the end of the day get back to what the Lord requires–to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God–or we are not really living as Christians.

I know exactly what Kevin is saying. Our online worlds like Facebook, World of Warcraft and EVE Online (a game I also play on occasion) can easily draw us in and when we have to return to “real life” things are different. The world of theology blogging can be the same way without the Farmville request, orcs and space pirates. I write all the time about community but we are really struggling to see it happen in our lives. I write a lot about homeschooling but my wife handles most of that and I am not as involved as I should be. Loving and serving others are frequent topics on my blog but have not been major factors in my life although I am really seeking (and have found) some opportunities for that. Talking is easier than doing and sometimes talking/writing is a way of avoiding doing entirely.

I also get what he is saying about “Reformedville”. It is so easy to get entangled in the big theological questions, slaying Arminian bogeymen and accussing one another of not being sufficiently Reformed that we find ourselves doing very little to impact the world. Sometimes we need to come out of our theology conferences into the scary and bright world where people who don’t know who Calvin was or that there was a Martin Luther who changed the world before there was a Martin Luther King Jr live. People who are hungry, hurting, in need. We are the ones God has called to serve others rather than listening to Reformed leaders talking to Reformed audiences about Reformed theology. Based on our theology, Reformed believers should be the ones most concerned about evangelism, the most humble and loving, the most driven to care for the needy and the most grieved about the lack of unity in the church. Does anyone want to argue that reality bears that out?

Kevin concludes with:

Theological discussion has to have a purpose besides the sort of gamesmanship that is all too common on the Internet today and this is most certainly true in Reformed circles. More importantly, we must live as Christians as much as we talk about the right way to be one. Whatever our convictions regarding a particular issue, we must at the end of the day remain faithful to that which our Lord has called us or all the arguments in the world aren’t going to save us from the sad fate which awaits both us and our society at large: the chaos of a world almost entirely bereft of Christian concern and practice.

There is a real problem of disconnect in the church, where we go from our theological discussions to how we live away from our copies of Calvin’s Institutes and our daily perusal of the online cage fighting world of theological blogging. I am highly encouraged to see more and more Reformed brothers and sisters who are questioning the sequestered world we have created around ourselves and are looking at taking our theology out to the streets, to the lost and the least of these all around us.

I am not, AT ALL, saying we shouldn’t blog or read books (or even play online MMORPG’s). I love blogging and reading and even the occasional conference and I find that when done properly, it really stretches our understanding and thinking in a healthy way and most importantly leads to action. Done incorrectly it leads to unnecessary divisiveness and vitriol, cold scholasticism that sees winning arguments and “being right” as more important than loving others and serving God by serving them. I have found myself staying clear of places and people online that I tend to get into the most heated arguments over (thus the paucity of posts about R. Scott Clark). I think that is a good policy. The biggest thing that is helping me is to try to get out and actually interact with people because that forces me to see theology as a “real life” issue and not as an argument to be won or a position to be defended. If we can all consistently do more of that, the church will have far greater impact in the world. The “real life” world that is!


Unknown said...

Excellent post! Perhaps the best I've read yet here. Thank you for the encouragement. It's exciting to read things like this and wonder what plans the Lord has for the future.

John Mureiko said...

By the way, my ID is not Robin. For some reason I was signed into our family business account. It's actually John Mureiko. ;)