The Christian gospel is not primarily a code of ethics or a metaphysical system; it is first and foremost good news, and as such it was proclaimed by its earliest preachers… (F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable, ch.1)
Christianity is built on a perspective-forming story, and knowing this leads me into a rant. So SHUT IT while I yell at an audience of one.
I detest what I call “Christian Issues Media.” What I have in mind here are the sorts of pop-level, simplistic pieces of media which address a range of questions similar to “is it wrong to missionary date?” or “do I have to go to Church on Sundays and if I go on Saturday will I go to Hell?” I’m thinking here of a innumerable amount of articles on gotQuestions?.org and Q&A programs like John Piper’s.
Christian Issues Media can often be a source of quick help to an uninformed questioner (especially Piper’s); but the solutions to the sort of problems found in this media are often simplistic, lack supporting sources, well thought out arguments, and, worst of all, suggestions for further reading (other than a slew of proof texts). The genre is both inept at answering anything but the most obvious questions (given the tendency to lack proper support) and nearly superfluous: many questions in Christian Issues Media would be answered fully just by the questioner becoming familiar with that fundamental story I mentioned before–the gospel.
What of more difficult questions? Most questions found in Christian Issues Media, when not immediately and effectively satisfied by gospel-acquaintance, can be solved by study requiring such slight sophistication that nearly any person can do so; to give an easy, unsupported answer discourages thorough (though fairly palatable) learning. The shallow nature of this genre (whatever format it inhabits) seems to enable an ignorance of the gospel; too many imbibe a swath of Christian Issues Media and let the authority figures writing them act as their educational-substitutes–the Pastor knows, and it’s his job to tell me what I know through him. He’s done the work for us! Rather than real learning, since learning presupposes understanding, the stunted leaner will only become a disciple of the answer-er.
But what of a third category of questions: even more difficult ones; isn’t answering those the function of Christian Issues Media? Shouldn’t the Church have people who selflessly provide information to the poor, unfortunate, and uneducated laity? Questions truly requiring more than shallow sophistication will in no way be truly met by a brief answer: how could they, especially when the format answers are delivered in tends to be uncritical?
The poor laity! What are they to do? Where should they turn to have their questions answered? We shouldn’t weep–the majority (in the West, at least) merely refuse to pursue learning, rather than facing genuine inability (just do a google search for average IQ by country). Those who, through no fault of their own, face overwhelming obstacles shouldn’t be discarded, nor are they somehow essentially inferior to the learned. But these poor folks do not make up a large portion of the laity. I’m convinced that most, choosing those comforts of simplicity, make themselves complicit in the development of a frail mind. If we take seriously the Athanasian view of Atonement–where through progressive intellectual and moral character development (made possible by Christ’s life, death and resurrection) we are healed and remade in the image of God–the intentional underdevelopment of the mind should be worrisome. Christian Issues Media is often an enabler of the worst kind.