In a previous post, I discussed the beginning of what I have dubbed the Free Information Age. This post was not meant as simply a parenthetical comment to the current zeitgeist, but as an introduction to a discussion of both the cultural waters that the Church must swim in, and a means of strategy for how the Church can carry its message and navigate in this new economy of communication and ideas.
There was a time in which many would accept a bull or ecclesiastical pronouncement with an assumption of infallibility. Those days are gone. The Church is mourning this, and that is natural. But that is mostly because it is natural to prefer blind submission. The Catholic church didn’t like Martin Luther’s criticism of its theology and practices, in the same way that the Church currently clings to its old position of assumed inerrancy.
Some since of assumed credibility is actually important. No two parties can truly dialogue if one party questions the validity of every position the other takes. But should the Church actually fear shouldering the burden of proof? Let me illustrate.
I remember as a child getting into the argument over “My dad can beat-up your dad.” This argument was never solved, and never tested. As a child, I was certain that my step-father was much stronger than anyone else’s, but I secretly knew that there was a possibility that he wasn’t, and the other boy wondered the same.
But what if my father had been Mike Tyson (the 80’s version)? In that case, I would never have backed down. The other boy might, but I would be safe in knowing that my position was indisputably secure.
In a similar way, Christians must know that Jesus is who He says He is. They know that His claims are indisputable. We have nothing to fear in marketplace of ideas. We don’t need to defenders of God to the world. As His claims are tested, He will be shown authentic.
One of the reasons that Christianity has difficulty in this is that our rhetoric is often louder than our actions. Jesus was clear in that we are to be people who are known by the love that we share, joy, peace, patience, etc. These are all actions, not words. Our actions are to be explained by rhetoric when necessary. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, we are to always “speak softly but carry a big stick.”
If skepticism of information can cause us to do this more, then it will bring us back to the type of Christianity that we should practice, instead of the rhetorically-driven example of the political Church. -Ryan