Theology on the Web: 2016 and Beyond

Theology on the Web

I launched my personal website in 1997 and my first Theology on the Web ministry website in 2001, so I guess that makes me somewhat of an Internet veteran. The Web has developed a great deal over the last 18 years and is now changing at an exponential rate. While it is impossible to know with certainty what the future holds, here are my predictions (or best guesses) for 2016, based on my own experience and observations.

A Further Growth in Mobile Access

April 2015 saw Google change its search algorithm to favour those websites that are accessible on mobile devices. This is hardly surprising, as the majority of new users of the Internet (particularly those in Africa) will be browsing using their phones. So, if you want to keep your ranking in the Search Engines, you will have no choice other than to make sure that your website is Mobile Friendly. If you are not sure if your website is mobile compliant, then Google offers a very helpful tool which you can use to find out.

A Decline in Free Services

The Internet is in a state of rapid transition from a time when many of the services and software offered were free, towards a paid or pay-per-view model. The reasons for this are many, but within my own field of Christian not-for-profit work I put this change down to:

  • A decline in donations to Web ministries since the start of the last recession, which has not yet been reversed.
  • A fall in income from advertising as visitors are increasingly choosing not to click on ads or are using software to block them.

An Increased Demand for Online Theological Journals

Many countries are now beginning to insist that Christian ministers get a recognised qualification before being allowed to lead a legally registered church. I know that this is happening in countries in Africa and I expect that this trend will continue. Governments will not be funding this training, obviously, but many churches will be unable to pay for it either. So, these new students will turn to the Web for free access to theological journals and articles to help them with their courses.

Restricted Access to Theological Journals

There has been a steady acquisition of independent theological journals by the large theological databases, which then restrict access to subscribing academic institutions. While these databases are offered on discounted terms to institutions in the Two-Thirds World, users still need to be registered at those institutions in order to access them. It does not take too much imagination to see how difficult it would be for Christian ministers to do this in countries where Christianity is actively being suppressed.

An Increase in Confessional Websites

There has been (and will increasing be, I predict), a growth in sites offering a subset of Evangelical Christian theology that agrees with a particular Confessional stance. Such sites are often closed (access only to subscribers) and offer students access to a pre-approved set of books and journal articles (with no off-site resources linked).

Why would an educational organisation want to do this?

  • It may be easier to get permission for some material if access is restricted.
  • It is easier to get funding from a particular denomination or confessional grouping if it can be demonstrated that students are being provided only with material that supports that denomination’s doctrinal position.
  • It arises from the concern that exposing students to differing theological views will lead them into doctrinal error.

My own view is that theological education should seek to expose students to a wide range of opinions and give them the tools they need to discern for themselves which of these aligns most closely with Scripture. It is necessary to know both what you believe and also know the opposing view well enough to explain why it is wrong. This cannot be done simply by reading about opposing views second-hand. That is the broader model of theological education within evangelicalism that Theology on the Web is committed to, but in making this commitment I fully realise that I am going against the general trend.

What Do I Hope to See in 2016?

I look forward in 2016 to see the upward trend in visitor numbers and the amount of material downloaded to continue. I am also hoping to find more theological journals to host on the websites. It is always wonderful to get permission to place online a journal that has been out of print for some time, so that its resources can be used anew. I also want to provide a platform for new journals to start, or, like the Caribbean Journal of Evangelical Theology, give out-of-print print journals a chance to move to e-publication. With my new Webserver in place I look forward to the New Year with a sense of expectation and excitement.

What do You Think?

Do you agree with my assessment? What turns do you think the Internet will take next year? Join me in the comments below.

Every Blessing for Christmas and the New Year!

 

Cyber Monday Sales & Theology on the Web

Cyber Monday on Amazon

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Ramsay’s Cities of St Paul on-line

The Cities of St. Paul by William M. Ramsay
The Cities of St Paul by William M. Ramsay

While I was at Bible College (a long time ago now, or so it seems) I wrote at article about missionary principles in the Book of Acts. As I studied the various Bible Encyclopedia articles on the cities of Acts I was surprised to find how many of them where based on William M. Ramsay’s 1907 work on the subject, which at the that time, had not been superseded. For that reason I am very pleased to be able to make it available free of charge.

William M. Ramsay [1851-1939], The Cities of St Paul. Their Influence on His Life and Thought. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1907. Hbk. pp.452. This title is in the Public Domain

Table of Contents

Part I – Paulinism in the Graeco-Roman World

§ I. Introduction
§ II. The Pauline Philosophy of History
§ III. The Pauline Contrasted with the Method .
§ IV. St Paul and Hellenism
§ V. Hellenism and Hebraism
§ VI. The Empire as the World’s Hope
§ VII. Paulinism in the Roman Empire
§ VIII. Conclusion

PART II – Tarsus

§ I. Introduction
§ II. The Situation of Tarsus
§ III. Tarsus and the Plain of Cilicia
§ IV. Tarsus, the River and the Sea
§ V. Tarsus and the Cilician Gates
§ VI. The Ionians in Early Tarsus
§ VII. Tarsus as an Oriental Town
§ VIII. Legends of Early Tarsus
§ IX. The Religion of Tarsus
§ X. The Revival of Greek Influence
§ XI. Tarsus as the Greek Colony Antiocheia
§ XII. The Greeks in Tarsus-Antiocheia
§ XIII. The Jews in Tarsus 169
§ XIV. The Jews settled in Tarsus in l 7 l B.C.
§ XV. Tarsus the Hellenistic City
§ XVI. Tarsus as Capital of · the Roman Province Cilicia
§ XVII. The Oriental Spirit ‘in Tarsus
§ XVIII. Romans otherwise Tarsians
§ XIX. The Tarsian Democracy
§·XX. Athenodorus of Tarsus
§ XXI. The Reform of the Tarsian Constitution by Athenodorus
§ XXII. The University of Tarsus
§ XXIII. Tarsus under the Empire

Part III – Antioch

§ I. The City and its Foundation
§ II. The Jews in Pisidian Antioch
§ III. The Greek Colonists in Early Antioch
§ IV. The Phrygians of Antioch
§ V. Antioch a City of Galatia
§ VI. Character of the Original Hellenic City
§ VII. The Roman Colony of Pisidian Antioch
§ VIII. Hellenism in Pisidian Antioch
§ IX. The Religion of Antioch
§ X. First Appearance of Paul and Barnabas in the Antiochian Synagogue
§ XL Paul’s First Address to a Galatian Audience
§ XII. The Approach to the Gentiles
§ XIII. The Door of the Gentiles

Part IV – Iconium

§ I. Natural and National Character
§ II. The Religion of Iconium
§III. The Territory of Iconium
§IV. Iconium a City of Galatia
§ V. The Constitution of the Hellenic City Iconium
§VII. Iconium as a Roman City
§VIII. The Roman Colony of Iconium
§IX. St Paul at Iconium
§ x. The Christian Cults of Iconium

Part V – Derbe

Part VI – Lystra

§I. Situation and Character
§II. Character of the Five Cities

Part VII – St Paul in the Roman World

Notes