The Search Bar as Spiritual Battleground

In today’s world there is more information than ever before. The numbers are mind-boggling. By 2020, there will be 40 times more bytes of data on the internet than there are stars in the observable universe. Some estimates suggest that by 2025, 463 exabytes of data will be created each day online. What’s an exabyte? Well, consider this: five exabytes is equivalent to all words ever spoken by humans since the dawn of time. In 2025, that amount of data will be created every 15 minutes. 

We have all of this at our fingertips: entire encyclopedias, libraries, and universes of information on the phones in our pockets. But this surplus of knowledge and easy access to information is not making us wiser. If anything, it’s making us more uncertain, anxious, overwhelmed. Depression and loneliness are on the rise across the world. Our mental and spiritual health suffers in this age of information gluttony; there is simply too much. Too many voices shouting at us. We don’t know what, if anything, to trust.

Google and other search engines give quick answers to any question, but the problem is they also turn up too many answers; answers that are confusing to sift through; answers that contradict one another. Just try searching for something like “should I vaccinate my baby?” or even something simple like “best restaurant in Los Angeles.” You’ll get an abundance of opinions but little in the way of clarity or consensus. Whose take is the best? Whose opinion is most valid? Which source is the most reliable? Do we really trust Google’s ranking algorithms (e.g., the search results that show up near the top) to answer those questions? If not, how do we find truth in this world of information excess? 

Our mental and spiritual health suffers in this age of information gluttony; there is simply too much. Too many voices shouting at us. We don’t know what, if anything, to trust.

Searching Important Questions

The problem of information gluttony is one thing when it comes to searches for “best restaurants” and celebrity gossip. It’s a more serious problem when it comes to spiritual questions of infinite consequence. Because what people find when they search theological questions is, sadly, often not theologically sound.

According to 2019 Google data, “What is the Bible?” is googled more than 1.8 million times per month, “Who is Jesus” is googled 1.5 million times per month, while questions like “What is the gospel?” and “What is salvation?” and “What is sin?” all receive more than 300,000 search queries a month.

It’s great that people are searching for these things. But what they click on after Google delivers results can mean the difference between spiritual enlightenment and deception, sending a searcher on a path toward heresy or life-changing gospel truth.

That’s what hangs in the balance on the internet today. That’s why Google is the greatest spiritual battleground of our time. The voices that rise to the top on Google, who occupy the coveted spots near the top of search results to questions like “Who is Jesus?” and “What is salvation?” are in positions of incredible influence over the souls of the searching.

Those who occupy the coveted spots near the top of search results to questions like ‘Who is Jesus?’ and ‘What is salvation?’ are in positions of incredible influence over the souls of the searching.

Need for Theologically Sound Search Results

At The Gospel Coalition, we have been adamant from the beginning that no theological website or app can or should replace the local church. Still, we recognize that—whether we like it or not—21st-century people are being spiritually shaped by what they find online. It’s not a stretch to say that many hearts and minds are being shaped less by what they encounter for an hour on Sunday than by the podcasts, videos, articles, and books they discover online 24/7. This is why it’s so vital that organizations produce and curate biblically robust, theologically sound content online.

In an insightful recent article on how technology is changing the religious landscape, Skye Jethani points out that “most Christians aren’t getting their Bible teaching primarily through Sunday sermons anymore.” Rather, they are going online. “Anyone with a smartphone may access thousands of sermons from anywhere, anytime. The problem is no longer access to Bible teaching, it’s curating and navigating the right Bible teaching.”

Jethani argues that Christian leaders should allocate more time and energy to curating “the best online biblical resources and content” rather than putting all their eggs in the Sunday-morning sermon basket. Hearing a doctrinally sound sermon twice per month,” after all, “is no match for marinating in heresy for hours every day,” Jethani argues. 

Certainly what happens on Sunday morning is still of chief importance and will never become obsolete. There are some things the local church offers that the internet should and could never replicate. But even as we promote the essential ministry of the local church, TGC is also committed to producing gospel-centered content online: content that comes from a trustworthy source, rises to the top in the all-important search rankings, and floods the internet with gospel truth.

Even as we promote the essential ministry of the local church, TGC is also committed to producing gospel-centered content online.

Hope for the Searching

Every day, across the world, thousands of people type important spiritual questions into search bars. They are looking for answers. Hope. Truth they can trust. 

What they are finding is not always helpful.

As one of the top 20 Christian websites in the world (according to Alexa rankings), TGC.org is well-positioned to become one of the most trusted voices for spiritual questions online. But currently sites like JW.org (Jehovah’s Witnesses), LDS.org (Mormons), CBN.com (Pat Robertson), and Catholic.net rank above TGC in the “Christian” category. This means people searching for information on Jesus and the gospel might find these errant sources before they would find TGC or another theologically sound website. 

We want this to change. Because the truth matters. Clarity on the gospel of God, and how it touches all areas of life, is of utmost importance. 

Would you consider making a gift to help TGC refine and expand our efforts to produce high-quality, cutting-edge, accessible media that will rank highly on Google search results? People are searching for resources on important spiritual questions, and we want to make sure they find biblical answers. Through what we provide for free online, we want to offer hope for the searching. But we need your help. 

Help us gain ground for the true gospel in the contested battleground of online answers—for God’s glory and the souls of all who search.

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