Is the Internet an enemy of the faith?

Consider these thoughts, from a Baptist minister:

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.

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