It's true that the blogosphere has created space for some truly unremarkable interchanges to take place. You can't call them conversations or dialogues, both of which imply the occurrence of actual communication. I guess "mutual flaming" would be more descriptive.
But sometimes the blogosphere is used for substantive dialogue, and when that happens, it should be celebrated. A case in point - the recent Beliefnet dialogue between Bart Ehrman and N. T. Wright on the existence of evil. Both have written books on the subject.
Ehrman, an Evangelical Christian in his younger years, describes how in later adulthood his faith became a casualty of his inability to reconcile the world's heinous suffering with the existence of a gracious and good God. N.T. Wright, an Anglican bishop and scholar, responds.
This "blogalogue" isn't a debate: there is no winner, except those who read and gain insight from the dialogue partners - both in the substance of their comments and in their mutually respectful mode of discourse.
My favorite line from N.T. Wright:
... once God decides (with the call of Abraham) to work to address the problem of evil through people who are part of the problem as well as part of the solution, there is going to be an awful lot of messiness, which will reach its climax when God not only gets his feet muddy with the mess of the world but his hands bloody with the nails of the world.
My favorite line from Bart Ehrman:
The issue of human suffering is not a logical problem to be solved or some kind of mathematical equation. It is a human problem that requires empathy, sympathy, emotional involvement, and action.
In the end, Ehrman makes this proposal:
Even if we cannot, in the end, know the reasons for suffering, we can at the least have appropriate responses to it. We ourselves can feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked; we can work to solve problems of poverty; we can give money to agencies finding cures for cancer and AIDS; we can volunteer more often locally; we can give more to international relief efforts. We can, in fact, fulfill the urgent demands implicit in Matthew's account of the judgment between the sheep and the goats, for "as you have done this to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done it unto me.
On this a proponent of Christian faith and a former proponent can agree, thanks be to God! And so may we all ...
Brian McLaren (brianmclaren.net) serves as Board Chair for Sojourners. He is an author and speaker (deepshift.org). His most recent books include Everything Must Change (2007) and Finding Our Way Again (2008).