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Minding the Gap between True Theology and Popular Online Theology
For St. Tikhon’s Founder’s Lecture, we had the pleasure of hearing Priest John Cox speak to the issues we face when attempting to enter theological dialogue on the internet. Fr. John is the rector of Holy Dormition Orthodox Church in Norfolk, Virginia, and is also the managing editor of the digital journal, Rule of Faith <https://ruleoffaith.org/>. So, he comes to this topic not only as a parish priest who has a practical, everyday sense for his own parishioners, but also as an editor of a journal aimed at taking part in online theological discussion.
The title of his talk, “Mind the Gap: First Principles and Popular Theology” hints toward his eventual point: it is fitting to engage online theological discussion, but keeping certain guidelines or emphases in mind. One of the more important principles he shared was to be careful to remain connected to the original sources, putting priority on the act of exegesis of the Scriptures and clearly referencing the Church Fathers, that is, instead of putting words in the Fathers’ mouths to build our online argument.
Another point he made, which is all too important online when the desire to react, often negatively, is incredibly tempting, was to “check the negative, ugly, reactive impulse” and “instead respond from a place that is life-giving and hopeful”, and “a place of virtue”.
When asked, after the talk to give a Twitter version of his talk, after some thought, he wisely said, “If you don’t know where you’ve been, you might end up anywhere.”