Heal Your Church WebSite


Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Follow-up: bad church web design inspired by bad theology

Judging from the feedback on my last post – I’ve either let you down or built you up. To those who were critical, thank you for your honest comments in love. It is always welcome. To those who sent private form-feedback, I’m glad I was able to encourage you. To those confused – I think I need this follow-up post to clarify some points.

Augustine of Hippo Refuting Heretic

While I never want to “go cheap” with gratuitous controversy, there’s no ignoring that I’ve touched some nerves in asking ‘Does bad theology induce bad church website design?’

I am personally very intrigued that in both public comments and private email/form responses that I’m receiving not many communications that are “in the mushy middle.” So with that, I’m going to dig into this topic a little bit more and then move on.

First

It wasn’t my intent to start a raging debate over water baptism. It’s just that personally, I find it a bit of a contradiction that those who’d slap ‘cult’ labels on denominations for infant baptism would on the other hand hold up the physical act water baptism as a requirement of who is in and who is not.

What I take from the Gospels was that Jesus was always impressed by those who demonstrated faith. Take for example the centurion or the thief on the adjacent cross. So too I’d think it is faith, and not a physical act that is what is important here.

Moreover, of the three theological points I … um … pointed out, that was the one I had the least trouble with regarding the site … um … cited. That I received no feedback on the erroneous assertions that Seven Day Adventists are cultists or that man has no sin nature bother me far than the whole baptism thing.

BTW, I was baptized as an infant, but later in life stepped out on faith and was baptized as an adult – demonstrating said faith as the person baptizing me quite literally, and accidentally, let go and let Jesus manage the event as I leaned backward into the baptismal pool. It was all I could do to keep from laughing underwater at the ironic prospect I might perish in the process of “dying to self.

Second

I think I failed to make my point because I only presented one website as an example.

My bad – in part because I think in part because as always, I wanted to present 5 things we could learn from the poorly design website in question.

Ergo, I offer web sites 5 more examples of sites that demonstrate web design as questionable as the apologetics they espouse:

  1. All Men are Saved – asserting that everyone gets in by employing every font to every argument on one long page. Most annoying and unusable are those points of emphasis that are underlined – leading users down an errant path to thinking such text leads to hyperlinks – when they in reality lead to nowhere.
  2. The Robert Brow Model Theology Web – a webmaster who takes as much license with both semantic HTML as he does in various teachings regarding relationships that don’t involve penetration … while ignoring lessons learned in Matthew 5.
  3. Brother Jed Smock – claims to be the foremost campus evangelist in the USA, only no one will every know because not only does he hinder access with a splash page, but further hides his message under a basket by using graphics to represent text that’d otherwise get indexed by a search engine.
  4. Demonbusters – which not only asserts that all problems are demonic, but demonstrates how to “return all curses sevenfold” by abusing it’s readers by shouting at us in ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME!
  5. Exposing Those Who Contradict – a site by L.Ray Smith that rails against the doctrine of eternal damnation, asserting that evil is a creation of God through a couple hundred articles that one must sift through by title all on the home page rather than through a much more usable mechanism such as a site search engine.

Third and finally

I think where I really let everyone down was not first providing why I often connect bad theology as a contributing factor to bad church website design. So here goes:

Along with a Master’s in Computer Science, I hold a BA in Music. What the combination of both disciplines have lead me to think is that any good artistic or coding endeavor – or in this case good web design – is in part a matter of hearing good doctrine, and then doing it. Sound familiar?

So I’m thinking how can we reasonably ask individuals engaged in lazy, misguided, and/or stubborn on points of Scriptural doctrine to act in a manner different in terms of practicing tenets of good church website design?

Put another way, can we reasonably expect someone who might assert that something like … oh I dunno … um … speaking in tongues as the only proof of Baptism in the Holy Spirit to reasonably be hearers and doers of … oh let me think … semantic HTML or usability in navigation?

Anyway, though I think I’ve exhausted this topic, I want to thank EVERYONE for their form feedback, public comments and/or email – both encouraging and critical. I appreciate it and hope everyone feels free to continue doing so in the future.

6 Comments

  1. Pingback: Does bad theology induce bad church website design? » Heal Your Church WebSite

  2. Well then, if I can try and gauge where I think you were going with this – we should take our design responsibilities seriously. If Dean has noticed this connection, surely many in the world have too. We wouldn’t want someone to get the wrong impression about our website (sound as our own theology might be) and, because of poor design, consign our church to one of the fringe examples given here.

  3. Actually, holding SDA to be a cult used to be a very mainstream position. Up until after WWII or so, the SDA church held to Arianism. They also were traditionally exclusivist and sectarian, drew doctrine largely from one individual regarded as a prophet, had Millerite (failed mid-1800s apocalyptic “prophet”) roots, etc. It’s only been in the past few decades they’ve integrated more with evangelicals, both doctrinally and in practice.

    What constitutes a cult is often in the eye of the beholder. Great Britain ruled Amway to be a cult back in the 1980s, IIRC.

    One thing many of these that you’ve mentioned have in common is that they’re either personal sites or sites for small churches. As I said in my previous post, it’s easy for me to tell a 60-70 year old preacher that his personal site (with hundreds of articles) needs to be ported over to a CMS; when I look at the difficulties this 35 year old programmer has had porting his personal site (and his church’s site) to Joomla over the past year, though, it makes me personally a bit more reticent. :)

  4. The only thing I have to say is that for your argument to have full validity, then the opposite must also be true. Ergo: good designed sites = good theology.

    It doesn’t hold up for me – but then maybe that’s because I haven’t been fully immersed :)

  5. Thanks for the clarification. I understand your thinking now – the cause and effect is not bad theology leads to bad web design, it’s that the type of reasoning & thinking that can lead to poor theology is the same mindset that can lead to poor web design. Makes some sense, though I’m not sure there’s a real strong correlation there.

    I’d dissagree with Stuart, however, in that the reverse doesn’t need to follow. It’s a thought process and mindset issue, and sound thinking can lead to poor theology and poor web design too. Thankfully, we can repent of both. Besides, a church built on solid theology can hire any knucklehead to do its web site.

    As far as the other two points not getting any attention, these are much more fringe positions. As I pointed out in the last post, many mainstream denominations and even the Nicene creed support baptism for salvation. Not nearly as many support labeling the SDA as a cult or that man has no sin nature.

  6. Depends what you mean by bad theology. Personally I think Arianism is good theology, but not as good as Unitarianism ;)

    My take on this would be that if you’re the kind of group that likes to assume that everything about the Divine is known by their particular group, and everyone else is wrong, then you’re unlikely to have the humility to take on board ideas about good web design, standards, etc.