I want to recommend a forthcoming book written by a former professor of mine, Dr. Doug Estes. I finally had the opportunity to preview a portion of SimChurch: Being the Church in the Virtual World. You can do the same at the Brownblog here.

I have two initial thoughts:

(1) There is my skeptical response, which Doug appears to be prepared to address, that says the virtual world is a place inhabited by normal people part of the time and only freaks most of the time. Even those freaks have to come back to the real world for oxygen. There is no way virtual ecclesiology will be anything but a fringe study.

(2) There is the other side of my that realizes I do much of my theologizing with people I have never, ever met in person or that are far, far away from me in the time-space continuum by means of biblioblogs, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and so forth. If this is true who is to say that one day many of us will sit in church from the comfort of our living room just as many people manage business from home. Would George Whitefield have foreseen tapes, then CDs, then mp3s replacing yelling in a valley as a means of reaching people with a sermon? Probably not.

I present my first concern–is this a new form of neo-Gnosticism? Not Gnosticism as knowledge-salvation, but the branch that denied the value of the material world. Is it ecclesiastical docestism? Or is it merely an echo of the Pauline concept in Ephesians that spiritually we are already together, ruling with Christ? Any thoughts out there?