Sunday, June 20, 2010

Blogosphere's theology

There was a conversation on theologians and blogging culture that I had with Sivin Kit previously. I shared about the incident of an established academic theologian once asked me and my friends, "Would you spend time reading blogs or Wolfhart Pannenberg's books?"

We did not answer him as we were not sure. After a short moment of silence, the theologian said, "You don't really have to choose; of course it's Pannenberg."

Then I realized that it was a rhetorical question as it was asked with the assumption that we would reply, "Pannenberg."

I felt the need to clarify. So I opened my mouth, "But for many, like myself, learn about Pannenberg through blogs." The theologian agreed before he insisted, "Yes, only as an exposure. Blogs are written by any person (read: 'nobodies') and lack the substance as compared to struggling through Pannenberg's systematic theology."

Sivin, a theologian himself, said that if he was there, he would ask the theologian why Pannennberg's works are more substantial compared to theological blogs? Sivin believed that the degree of substantiality depends on how relevant it is to a person within his/her context.

Obviously to the theologian, whose context is in the academia, reading Pannenberg is more time-worthy. And the academia is still caught up with the practice of doing theology through the conventional media (books, journals, conferences). What if one's context of doing theology is different? What if we are doing theology with the new media (blogs, Facebook, semi-public e-forum)?

That is not to say that we disregard academic reading altogether, but to acknowledge that theology is always done in context. The academia style is one among others.


Terence said...

agreed. how many christians would spend time mulling through *boring theological books?

Sivin Kit said...

if we take the world cup football matches as an analogy, the "nobodies" New Zealand (blogs?) are now leveling "World Cup defending champs" Italy (academia?) in the world stage.

So, even as one who enjoys reading Pannenberg (I'm really saying those for theologians who need to hear this! *smile*), I think it's a matter of reflecting on the questions, content and thinking processes raised, more than the how sophisticated one can reflect on them. Theology must not be an elite discipline, it's a human one! Bloggers are human, so much as professors.

That is one interdisciplinary opportunity right before our screens, I mean, before our eyes. :-)

Kar Yong said...

I had sat in a debate where one senior faculty member of a seminary said, "bloggers are gossipers and have no academic worth."

My next question was, "Do you read blogs?"

The answer, "I don't as there is no academic worth."

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Terence,

Yes, those books are boring! But we cannot neglect them too. Just that when we do theology, we have to reckon our context and audiences :-)

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Sivin,

Thanks for the conversation! Have to return your DVDs to you before I leave :-)

Sze Zeng said...

Hi KY,

Can't talk to dinosaurs like that! Obviously he has not read any blog with such a negative bias against bloggers. The senior faculty member reminds me of Najib who said tha bloggers are liars before March 2008 General Election. Now, he is propagating his own blog "1Malaysia" all around Malaysia.

Sivin Kit said...
If this world class scholar sees the value in blogging, why not our very own at home? :-)