Journal Topics

What are the dangers of virtual church?

I was on a program on the BBC about a year and a half ago where one of the founders of something called Saint Pixels was holding forth, and Saint Pixels is a virtual church. You take on a character called an avatar and you go into a virtual church space and worship, pray, sing etc. My point was how could you possibly do that when you’re not truly there? Moreover, how do we know people are being honest, when they’re taking on a character, they’re taking on a persona? And this person assured me that people were very authentic and very genuine and I said how could you ever really know that unless you knew the person outside of the virtual world? We believe that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God believes in the goodness of matter. He created it. And the Word took on human form. We know that from John 1. He was full of grace and truth. And you think of the activities of the church in terms of things like the right hand of fellowship, or baptism, or passing the peace, and so on. These are embodied activities where we are with people and we don’t want to try to simulate that. Whatever that is, it’s not the same as real koinonia or real worship that we read about in the New Testament.

-Provided by Douglas Groothuis, professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary


What are some practical principles for using social media?

I think we need to be as reflective as possible. It’s easy to simply to jump into social media and become immersed in it and not really understand what’s going on. And my basic principle is every communications medium has strengths and has weaknesses. Basically the medium is the message. Every medium shapes the content, and it encourages some things and discourages other things. So, for example, something like Facebook encourages and facilitates rapid and widespread communication, which can certainly have its benefits. Let’s say you have an emergency prayer request and its something that is safe to put out there in that kind of a setting. You might have people all over the world praying for this particular situation and would be more difficult to get the word out otherwise. But, on the other hand, things like Facebook and Myspace, although that’s declining in influence, have dangers, and part of that is what your are saying, overexposure, not being careful, not exercising confidentiality, there’s the danger of gossip, rumors, and so on, and also the general tendency to simply be very superficial and very quick to speak. Scripture says not to be quick to speak, but to be quick to listen, and slow to judge. And the Book of Proverbs repeatedly says that a wise man or a wise woman holds his or her peace but a fool proclaims his folly, and its very easy for people to be foolish on Facebook and all of a sudden all of your friends know the foolish thing you’ve just put up there and it may not be glorifying God at all.

~Contributed by Douglas Groothuis, professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary