From the time of the American Revolution to modern day, many historians that all value–whether religious or societal or economic–is contingent on norms and concepts that are universally understood amongst certain contextual societies. Today in class, one of my professors told us that she always negotiated student’s grades with them in conference at the end of the year.
The ultimate example of value as a negotiated entity is the rise of sites like technorati. On this site is a virtual filing system of all blogs and web-sites in the known blgosphere (this term actually says more than it means to. The idea that there is a realm dedicated to blogs also means that there is a whole universe of meaning found by those who engage in this world. The blogosphere has become a culture and realm unto itself and it is baffling those of older generations who still set value as a kind of non-moving entity). The interesting thing about this blog is the rating system. My blog is rated based on how many other people link their blog to my blog. For instance, if someone likes something I said in my blog, they will provide a link in their blog in one of their posts to my posts. They might comment more fully on something I said on their blog. As more people quote me in their blogs, I gain more “authority” points in the blogosphere. Right now I am only a “4,” but my former roommate and good friend Wes, is an “11” because he blogs more regularly and more people link his blog to their blogs.
Needless to say, it is an interesting and somewhat arbitrary way to assign value to the content of what a person is saying. It almost seems like a re-invention of a “popularity contest,” but much more subtle. You see, in this world, the more people that can enter your circle of influence, the more authority you have. The content matters not so much as that you have people who are willing to read your material and either agree or respond to it.
If all value is negotiated, then what does this make God? Is God’s value contingent on our ideas as we develop as a society? Has God changed as we have changed? The answer to this question is not easy (God knows enough people have spent a considerable amount of time considering this question). Some theologians came to the conclusion that God is the unmoved mover (see also Thomas Aquinas). Others have begun to see new trends arising, who argue that God really does change the way he works based on the context of those listening. Google has a search just for blogs and searching for “Does God change?” results in 365 blog postings (enough for each day of the year). There are many people who are opening up to the idea that God actually changes over time based on the way people change.
But does this lead us down a path of endless relativism? These are the kinds of questions that I wrestle with in a world that seems to present value based on popularity or “blogosphere” clouds of interest. I want to believe that value is not negotiated–that there are some great unchanging truths–but our society today does not really lend itself to this. Perhaps it would be good to challenge our children to think long and hard about these things before they agree or disagree with such a system of thought. Or perhaps, those of us who are not used to such a state of truth in flux, ought to consider what these new trends mean for our society today and for the Christian Church.