From Facebook to a
Biblical Theology of Privacy
by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts
Copyright Â© 2010 by Mark D. Roberts
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Privacy and God: Introduction
Facebook has been all over in the news this week. It made the cover of TIME,
for example, with the story “How Facebook is Redefining Privacy.” This
article chronicles the astronomical rise of Facebook as well as the
privacy crises it has engendered. (Photo: my dog enjoyed the TIME article)
even managed to get a letter from four U.S. Senators (Schumer, Franken,
Bennet, Begich), who, presumably, had so little to do that they took
the time to write to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook. In this epistle
“look forward to the FTC examining this issue.”
Wednesday of this past week, Facebook announced the roll out of
simplified privacy controls. Soon it will be easier for Facebook
members to limit what is known about them. Senator Charles Schumer, one
of the original letter writers, was quick to praise Facebook: “This is
a significant first step that Facebook deserves credit for.”
sure we’ll be hearing much more about privacy on Facebook in the days
to come, as both U.S. Senators and ordinary citizens evaluate the new
privacy tools. Of course this is just one small piece of a much larger
and important conversation about privacy in the age of the Internet and
But, near as I can tell, one part of that conversation has been largely missing. So far, there has been little theological reflection on the whole notion of privacy.
Psychologists, sociologists, politicians, business leaders, and pundits
have weighed in about privacy. But theologians, biblical scholars, and
pastors have been mostly keeping their thoughts private, so to speak.
(I did find, ironically enough, a Facebook discussion on the topic:
What is a biblical theology of privacy? But it’s more than two years
old, with only 11 posts, and not much theological reflection.)
I’ve decided to do some thinking on this issue, working towards a
biblical theology of privacy. I have lots of questions swirling around
in my mind, such as: Is privacy important from a theological point of
view? Does the Bible have anything to say about privacy? Is privacy
good, theologically speaking? Is it bad? Is it neutral? Should
Christians be concerned about preserving privacy? Or should we be glad
that things are becoming less private than they might have been a few
years ago? What does God have to do with privacy . . . and privacy with God?
I’m launching this series on privacy and God. I will pick it up again
on Tuesday, after Memorial Day is over. In the meanwhile, I’d be
interested in any thoughts you might have on God and privacy. If you’re
willing to share them publicly, please leave a comment below. Or you
can tweet your ideas, using the Twitter hashtag #privacyandgod.
(Remember, your tweets will be forever archived in the Library of
Congress. No joke.) If you want your thoughts to remain private, send
me an email.
One closing thought. Privacy certainly isn’t
something we get to experience in our relationship with God, at least
not in the sense that our lives are hidden from God. We know that “the
Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). Moreover, we read in Hebrews
Indeed, the word of God is living and active,
sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from
spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and
intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all
are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render
Not much privacy here!