Social media affords a great many people the opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions on basically anything and everything. From our perspective on the plain red cups being sold by Starbucks to our dismay at the latest political gaffe to cheering that our favorite sports team just won the World Series (I am guilty of that one of late), words fly around social media like there is no tomorrow.
This is not all necessarily bad. Having a place to air our voice on matters of great importance or to simply share a funny anecdote for our friends and family to enjoy is a good thing. It provides a sense of release and a sense of community, especially with those we love and our friends that we cannot regularly engage face to face.
There is a danger however with the freedom that exists with a platform such as social media and the internet as a whole. I have noticed this danger most frequently in Facebook forums, perhaps because I have spent an undue amount of time of late engaged in conversation with individuals in such forums. What is this danger you ask? I would like to label this danger as “Googlegetics”. What in this world is Googlegetics you might ask? Let me explain.
This phenomenon occurs each and every time someone resorts to the search function on their favorite web crawler in order to find the perfect quip or link to shut down another individual’s argument. If you have every spent more than five minutes looking through for example a Facebook forum where matters of theology are the focus, you will quickly notice the lack of real conversation. What has replaced discussion of Scripture is links to articles, videos, and things of that nature.
Now before this particular article appears to be a rant against videos and articles that discuss theology (because after all this article is one about theology), let me clarify there is nothing wrong with videos and articles, especially those which aptly and correctly seek to inform us on theological matters. There is quite a bit of quality information available on the internet and I often link to and encourage others to read a wide variety of information that can be found by way of a web search.
So what then is the issue? The problem resides when these videos and articles become our first source of information, our crutch if you will for the study of Scripture. We often declare our association with the Bereans yet fail to do the very thing they were noted for – searching the Scriptures to see if what they were being taught was correct. They clearly did not have the internet in order to fact check based on the writings of their favorite author or preacher or bible knowledge website. They went straight to the Scriptures.
This does not mean there is no value whatsoever in doing research. My friend Mike Leake recently wrote an excellent article addressing the problems with being what he rightly called a “Bible Only Man”. To be devoted to the study of the Scriptures does not mean we should never consult the writings of man for some insight. For instance, it is an absolute necessity in my humble opinion to have readily available a concordance and a bible dictionary when reading any passage of Scripture. If we are going to have any chance of properly declaring to the world the hope that is within us (which is the basis of apologetics), we have to grasp matters of context and the flow of thought in Scripture. A concordance will provide all the instances where a term is used in Scripture to allow you to see the variety of uses and to then hone in on how a word is being used in the particular passage you are studying. Add to that the usefulness of a bible dictionary in order to understand how the original languages intended a word to be understood and you are on the path to avoiding the danger of Googlegetics.
We run the risk of not properly analyzing and submitting to the authority of what God is telling us in Scripture when we immediately run to a web search to tell us what to think about a passage. God commands us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. These terms note the importance of the entirety of our life being devoted to God. Our mind is included because God expects us to use it. Thus, not exercising our mental capabilities by allowing others to tell us what God has said rather than reading it, meditating upon it, and listening to the Holy Spirit as he writes God’s Word on our hearts, short circuits the utilization of our minds in the learning process. In taking that route, we are doing Googlegetics, apologetics by way of the web search instead of faithfully searching the biblical text.
I see this phenomenon far too often and admittedly, I have to say it has overtaken me on numerous occasions. The temptation is to find that perfect quote or that perfect YouTube video that will once and for all provide victory over your opponent’s line of argumentation. What should take place instead is time spent in the study of the text under discussion. Ask the correct questions of the biblical text – who, what, when, where, and why. Once you have answered those questions, look at similar texts and ask those same questions. Then look for other related texts and ask those same questions again. It is likely you will then begin to see distinct and important patterns and principles that you may have overlooked or simply have not noticed before. There is room in this process for consulting scholarly articles and other related pieces of information and yes that can include using a web search for information. I recommend doing that sparingly and only after you have conducted purposeful investigative theology. Let the text speak for itself and be willing to adjust your preconceived notions and opinions of the subject matter when the text demands. Doing so demonstrates growth and maturity in studying the Word.
Such an approach to doing apologetics and studying Scripture admittedly takes a lot of time and effort. It is much easier to do Googlegetics and to let a video or article do the talking and thinking for you. I implore you to take stock of how you are approaching conversations and debates with friends and family on matters of theology. Do you immediately resort to finding that clever one liner or that “Hulk Smash” article or video with the hopes of winning the day or do you open the pages of Scripture and do the hard work of walking together through what God is saying? The former approach is an attempt to win an argument with no real knowledge gained or seeds planted and the latter approach is the complete opposite – seeking to allow Scripture to speak, seeds to be planted, and God to be glorified in the process.
Avoid Googlegetics. Be willing to dive into Scripture. There is much to be learned, applied, and declared.