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Count me in with Jared Wilson as being quite unimpressed with this argument for virtual church.

Here’s a sampling of the level of argument for why criticism of “online church” should be dismissed:

But here's the most cool thing: I know someone who comes to my church every Sunday and is not physically present; I can't touch him, can't hold him, can't hug him, can't greet him with a holy kiss, but thank goodness, He's there and in community with us. We mustn't judge the realness of a church's community with God (or people) based solely on select physical criteria.


Virtual churches are not fake churches; they are real churches that use synthetic space as a meeting place (or a synthetic medium as a means of building community).

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11 thoughts on “Bad Arguments for a Bad Idea”

  1. Rachael Starke says:

    What???!!! Excuse me, but this is utter hogwash, and perhaps even blasphemous. We most certainly do worship a Man with a realer body than ours (praise God), who at a particular point in history, (interestingly, a point in history where the only communication technologies available involved direct personal interaction, like delivering letters by hand that were written by hand and then reading them aloud, or, y’know, talking), atoned for our sins by dying on an actual cross, not a virtual one. If the only interaction Jesus had with His people was digital, we are of all people most to be pitied.

  2. Israel says:

    I thought church was about community and fellowship, not about dial up connections and Web Browsers.

    The Body of Christ at large is sadly disconnected, and I have a feeling that such ideas instead of “connecting” ,a social networking site would, it actually would push us farther apart. Church is not facebook.

  3. Bruce Russell says:

    The worst (and perhaps main reason): Tax Deductible contributions!

  4. Matt Taylor says:

    It grieves me how he thanks “goodness” and then refutes his own argument by using a synonym for fake/synthetic.

    May God give us the grace to rejoice in gathering together.

  5. Greg says:

    Of course… it all makes sense now… just another excuse to worship the individual and his/her idols of comfort, convenience and leisure.

  6. Ben Neumann says:

    Interesting…we always appropriately emphasize the church as God’s people and not a building. But here, and maybe only here, would it be appropriate to emphasize both. The church is first the people of God who, second, meet in a church, and indeed we should gather there.

  7. Jason says:

    First, I don’t believe that a “virtual church” (or virtual anything) grows community any more than a marriage can exist solely by telephone call or video chat.

    Second, there is a role for “virtual communication” such as this blog, podcasts and the like. It may be that someone will be saved through any form of media and that you and I may grow in our faith as we share virtually. It may even be that we will connect deeply and want to meet at some point.

    Biblically, I believe the model for the church involves location. When in Acts it states that the believers met in each other’s homes, had all things in common, broke bread together and the like, I don’t see how distant communication fosters a level of community such as that. I believe we are to be able to touch and hold each other, laugh and cry together. We are to be a family in Christ – not distant relatives.

    Scientifically, a UCLA study noted that up to 93% of communication is based on non-verbal cues. How can two people know each other missing 93% of the “stuff” of communication?

    The success of any church will, over time, be revealed in the lives of the people. Not are members viewing regularly or discussing passionately, or even attending regularly and drinking from the communion cup. Rather, are they becoming more or less *dependent* on God? And if more dependent on God, I think they couldn’t help but share it locally – and that just might start a local church!

  8. Warren says:

    RE: “I can’t touch him, can’t hold him, can’t hug him, can’t greet him with a holy kiss…”

    …can’t know whether “he” is he or she, can’t look into his eyes and see internal storms despite his flippant “Im gud. Life’s ruf somtimes. LOL”

  9. John says:

    Perhaps someone can enlighten me as to what “synthetic space” is?
    1. Relating to, involving, or of the nature of synthesis.
    2. Chemistry Produced by synthesis, especially not of natural origin.
    3a. Not natural or genuine; artificial or contrived.
    3b. Prepared or made artificially.
    4. Relating to or being a language (such as Latin or Russian) that uses inflectional affixes to express syntactic relationships.
    5. Relating to or being a proposition that attributes to a subject a predicate not inherent in the subject and that does not result in a contradiction if negated.

  10. chris says:

    Straight out of Neuromancer. Pitiable. I suppose this person might argue that cyber-sex is somehow an equivalent to the real thing— as it is all about my personal space. The communion of saints is now the communion of cyborgs.

  11. chris says:

    Oh yeah, umm, how do you get the bread and wine through the connection? We have not yet hit the transporter age, so no Star Trek thing yet.

    Is it April 1st today?

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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