Online Resources: https://thetheology.org
An extension of the YouTube channel, “The Theology Q&A“, thetheology.org is a Christian forum website designed to be a place where questions about the Bible and theology can be asked and answered. It’s a place to have conversations about the Bible with other people who may have questions. Anyone can ask a question and anyone can answer a question. Members of the community can create a profile, and you can follow specific people to made aware of questions they have asked and answered. Answers are commented on and rated by the community, so there is some small degree of quality control. In short, it’s like a stackexchange.com specifically for Bible and theology questions. The interface is clean, immediately understandable, and easy to navigate.
It’s still a pretty new site (online since, it seems, last December), but my impression after interacting with the site over the last couple of weeks is that its community is growing pretty quickly. It is also my impression that the community is predominately younger people (my guess would be under <30). But that doesn’t actually adversely affect the quality of the questions asked or of the answers offered. I’ve seen far less interesting questions and far less accurate answers come from older Christians. Moreover, the site creator and admin, Tarrence, clearly has done some research and put some thought into his Christian faith. If there are any problems at the moment, it’s that there are a whole lot more people asking questions than answering. I suppose that’s not really a problem, if the answers that are NOT being posted are terrible answers (which they could be). And as the community grows, the problems the site will face will actually become very different. If I have any thoughtful youth pastors among my readers, I suspect he might appreciate some help in answering questions, as well as commenting on and rating existing answers.
What I really like about projects like thetheology.org is that in our online age they act as a front door for the Church. Real people out there who have real, honest questions may not be inclined to go to traditional sources of authority with their questions (sources like pastors or churches), because traditional sources of authority are (with some justification) more and more held in suspicion. When I worked in Christian retail, I noticed the same kind of thing there: people would come into a Christian bookstore who wouldn’t have gone into a church, and people would ask questions of me at a Christian bookstore that they might not have asked their pastor. Whatever the reason for it, the Church is kind of seen as the place you go once you have it all figured out, rather than the place you go in order to figure everything out.
If I might suggest one possible reason for this, it would be that Christians seem allergic to questions or to letting questions simply exist as questions. Even when they invite questions from seekers (e.g., in some kind of Q&A outreach event), the answers that are given are often presented too authoritatively, too facilely, and therefore too dismissively of the seriousness of the question. The impression, whether it is intended or not, is often one of haughtiness, and the whole experience can be a little embarrassing for seekers. Perhaps we might once again become that place for our communities to come in order to work out our questions and figure out life together if we could stop feeling like any unanswered question is going to drive people away or undermine our authority. People, especially young people, are attracted to authenticity more than authority. If you claim to have authority, but I cannot detect that your authority is built on intellectual honesty, I have no reason to believe your claim to authority. It is really only when young people detect both authority AND authenticity that they will listen to you (in my opinion this is the single most important thing you need to understand about so-called “post-modernism” and its impact on the Church). How else do you explain the tremendous popularity of Bernie Sanders, an older white man, among young Americans this election? Whatever you think about his politics, I don’t think anybody seriously doubts that Sanders is an honest man who has put some serious thought into his political ideology of democratic socialism. It would behoove the Church to take notice of this.
So, in my opinion, projects like thetheology.org may, in fact, be more useful as an organ of evangelism for the Church than as a source for authoritative answers to theological questions (and isn’t that what apologetics is really about, anyway?). The lack of rigid quality control that comes with a project of this sort mitigates its ability to act as a source of authoritative answers, but that very lack is also kind of part of its appeal. If we’re honest with ourselves, the Church itself doesn’t have a very rigid quality control system – at least not one that is administered by humans. The quality control system of the Church is the operation of the Holy Spirit, who is utterly reliable but who obstinately operates outside of human control.
Bottom line, I recommend you check out thetheology.org, whether you have questions yourself or whether you want to be a part of its implicit apologetic/evangelistic mission by answering and/or rating a few questions. I’ve begun being somewhat active on it myself (my username is VladTubaka – check out my profile here), and I plan to continue checking in with some frequency. I think there’s a lot of potential here for good to be done.