We’ve spent the last several posts thinking together about how the internet is changing our experience of knowledge. Those posts were groundwork to help us think about one of the many momentous changes upon the Christian Church.
The instincts we bring to religion are directly related to the instincts we bring to knowledge. For the longest time, religion, and Christianity in particular, has worked under the assumption that we possess the one and true truth; that we have access to an indisputable body of knowledge. We begin with the assumption that it is our role to guard and distribute this special body of knowledge.
princess bride clergymanThese instincts inform the way our leaders lead, the way our followers follow, the way we relate to one another, the way we relate to people outside the Church. The way we do our Christian religion is rooted in the way we do knowledge.
But, if knowledge is changing, we ought to expect that the way we do Church is in flux as well.
To illustrate the shift in how we experience knowledge, let’s consider the difference between the Encyclopedia Britannica (this post) and Wikipedia (next).
Britannica is rooted in the ideas we’ve been outlining:
– knowledge is finite, limited, and scarce
– knowledge is universally true: if something is true for me, it’s true for you too
– knowledge is exclusive: if something is true, it is not at the same time false.
britannica-emerging churchConsequently, that quest for knowledge is a rarefied endeavor. We need brilliant people; people with years of training, research, and degrees to help us. Britannica does this well. It gathers the most qualified, degreed, intelligent, and respected people on the planet. They write down what is truly known about everything, A-Z.
These cultural luminaries decide what is important enough to be included in the A-Z inventory. They decide what bits of information about each topic are correct, true, and worthy of inclusion. They not only decide what we get to know about a topic, they decide what gets let out. Britannica is credible to the degree we trust the experts and the editorial process.
This is how the Christian Church has approached religion. Of course it is. That’s what this way of thinking about knowledge demands. When we are guardians of the one-and-true truth, it serves us well to keep authority in the hands of the studied few. That we unintentionally exclude more than we include is just a necessary by-product.
However, these are instincts that will have to change if the Church is going to survive.
Next post.

Share This