Worthwhile theology in 140 characters.

Starting on December 1st, Twitter bible discussion forum @chatbible will be teaming up with @natwivity to discuss the unfolding Christmas story. Each day, as different characters in the story tweet their points of view, @chatbible will pick up on their biblical references and encourage some theological discussion of them.

Is this really possible, or does theological comment in 140 characters invite the worst kind of reductionism? There were undoubtedly many who deeply resented  Jesus’ popularising of theology in the parables. In telling them was he not dumbing down the weighty theology which had been the preserve of the experts and feeding it to the vulgar masses?

In Nehemiah’s story there is an interesting moment when Ezra stands on a high platform in the city square reading from the book of the Law.  Meanwhile his assistants are passing amongst the crowd explaining it to people. Or are they? Translations of Nehemiah 8 v.8 vary between “translating”, “explaining” and “making it clear”. Literally, the Hebrew word means ‘chopping it up’. Maybe Ezra and his helpers came up with Twitter centuries before the rest of us?

Of course we cannot have the most profound discussion within a 140-character limit. However, as was said when @chatbible was first started, 140-characters’ worth of Bible discussion may be at least 140 more characters than we are employing on it just now! Let’s plunge into the fun of the natwivity, let’s engage with what the characters in the story are saying, and let’s see if surprising theological oak trees grow from these little acorns.


William Maltby was the President of the Methodist Conference in 1926, and a great man for quotable quotes.  As we embark on a necessarily pithy discussion of Christmas theology, I leave you with one of them:

Polysyllables are not the sign of profundity!