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When it comes to convenience and accessibility, it’s pretty hard to beat using the Internet as a theological library. With a quick clatter of fingertips on the keyboard, you can bring up a host of blogs, forums, and other resources that speak to whatever theological query you can imagine.

Of course, it’s wise to proceed with cautious discernment. Google is a poor magisterium, and there’s no guarantee that the theological opinions you’ll encounter are worth the pixels that illuminate them. The World Wide Web is a Wild West of theological reflection, and there are all sorts of perspectives offering you the inside scoop on the Truth. It can be a lot of fun exploring the diversity of Christian thought out there, but theology is a serious matter and bad theology can be damaging.

Here are a couple pointers for exploring theology online:
Check out the pedigree of the websites you’re visiting. Who hosts them? On behalf of which tradition do they speak? A good online resource will be quite upfront about this; if it is, you’ll have at least a small indication that the material you’re reading is respectful of and in dialogue with a larger Christian community.

This doesn’t mean you have to avoid any website that isn’t strictly Reformed. I’ve found lots of edifying material on the Vatican’s website, for instance. And though I might not agree with all of the theology there, I know I’m keeping good company. I also know that the material I’m reading is under the authority of a venerable tradition, not just the ramblings of a theological lone wolf.

With good company in mind, it’s worth remembering that using the Internet can be a terribly isolating experience. Often it’s just you and your flickering monitor. It’s rarely a good idea to study theological matters in isolation, so if you’re getting a regular digest of theological edification from the web, you should also be doing it with folks out here in the real world. Have you discovered a new theological insight on the web? Bring it up to your pastor, an elder, or a wise friend who knows the tradition. Chew it over together; subject it to his or her scrutiny. Others may offer an angle on the issue you hadn’t even considered.

The apostle Paul couldn’t have anticipated the kind of online lives many of us lead these days. He was a fan of discernment, though, and encouraged us to critically examine everything. Let’s do that together and hold on to the good.

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