If Paul had a Twitter Account: Social Media Apologetics

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As technology marches onward, so also our communication changes. The printing press revolutionized communication by allowing written information to be disseminated rapidly across continents. With high-speed Internet, virtual classrooms were born. With social media, communication has moved from text to picture. And with technology like social media rapidly shaping our dialogue, the question looms: how should we then evangelize? How can we fulfil the Great Commission in light of the iPhone and TikTok?

Getting our Bearings: It’s Time to BeReal About Ourselves

In his tremendously insightful book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in an Age of Showbusiness, Neil Postman argues that television has fundamentally mangled public discourse to the point of being “shriveled and absurd.”[1] Postman argues that the medium of television alters the message so that the message “is devoted entirely to supplying its audience with entertainment.”[2] Postman points out how news has evolved from quality debate in newspaper columns to spectacles portrayed on the glowing screen. We watch the news to be entertained by dramatized events like the O. J. Simpson trial or former President Trump’s court trials. On top of that, much of our news really has no real bearing on our lives (what’s the relevance of stiffer penalties for carjackings in Wisconsin?), but we watch anyway because the news is entertaining.

Unfortunately, television, screens, and social media have become the medium of choice for our dialogue. And of course, one can see how easily rationale discourse evaporates. With a medium specifically geared towards entertainment, how are we to have a long-form debate about addressing rising U.S. debt or immigration policy? No, that would be too boring. We need something more exciting! No wonder our “conversation” has devolved into rhetorical flourishes and clever insults. No wonder we think in sound bites and 60-second video increments.

Learning from Augustine: Going Back to the MySpace Era

Perhaps the way forward involves looking back to one of the greatest theologians of the Christian tradition, Augustine. Augustine viewed humans as more than simply “brains on a stick,” to borrow a phrase from James K. A. Smith. Rather, Augustine writes, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”[3] For Augustine, humans are loving beings. And by being loving beings, we are also storytelling beings. Stories grip us and speak to our affections, the core of who we are. In their insightful book The Augustine Way, Joshua Chatraw and Mark Allen explain, “Augustine offers a big picture with explanatory power, a metanarrative marked by internal consistency and rational appeal.” When Augustine does apologetics, he seeks to offer a story (“a metanarrative”) that will resonate with storytelling beings.

Augustine teaches us that our anthropology must shape our apologetics. And so, cultural engagement must involve more than just critical thinking. If that is the case, apologetics does not die a brutal death with the demise of rational discourse.

Augustine would advise our apologetic efforts to be directed to preach a God who is good and beautiful and true. To reach the storytelling beings that we are, narrative should guide our apologetic efforts. And if that’s the case, then we must retool our social media apologetic witness.


We must retool our social media apologetic witness.

A Proposal for Social Media Engagement: Real Stories for Reel Change

Now, the easiest course of action would be to pine for the days when people actually reasoned. But those days are long gone. We are marooned in a society too hypnotized to even understand its own plight. So we are presented with the question of how we should then evangelize.

With arguments and extended dialogues difficult to conduct on social media and humans being storytelling and loving creatures, perhaps our content creation should center on stories. What if we began to tell stories on our platforms? What if we aimed to capture people’s hearts and imaginations with miraculous stories of conversions by the God who brings the dead to life? What if we told stories highlighting the beauty and goodness of God in the world? After all, stories are more feasible to tell in one minute than walk through an extended philosophical reflection.

And taken together, these stories would help unbelievers understand the grand metanarrative. People would be able to see Christianity for the history of redemption that it is. And, as their hearts were inflamed with the truth, beauty, and goodness of God, these stories would begin to address rationality too. Seeing how all these stories can provide a comprehensive explanation for the world around us would undergird the plausibility of Christianity. And from there, we can invite people from “imagined communities” formed by the Internet into real dialogue in real, physical communities.[4]

Augustine, then, points the way forward to a flexible solution to fulfill the Great Commission. Allen and Chatraw write, “It is Augustine’s apologetic aim that grounds the elasticity of this approach. His aim is not to bury the dead but to heal the sick.”[5] And, by understanding humans as loving and storytelling beings, we can do just that.

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[1] Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, 16.

[2] Ibid., 87.

[3] Augustine, Confessions, 3.

[4] For a helpful discussion, see Carl Trueman, Strange New World, 121.

[5] Allen and Chatraw, The Augustine Way, 172.

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  • Christ and Culture
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Jacob Haley

Dancer Fellow

Jacob serves in the Center for Faith and Culture as the Dancer Fellow while pursuing an Advanced M.Div at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. If Jacob isn’t tucked away in the library, you can find him running, rock climbing, or playing chess.

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