Online religious authority is a relative term when fully considered. Who is the authority and how is their authority evaluated by the online community? When this matter is fully addressed, it appears that the majority of online authorities, whether religious or not, have become so due to loyal followers (or readers, watchers, fans, etc.)
In areas of online forums concerning proper actions of Christians, such as www.talkjesus.com, anyone with internet access can create an account and post their views as an answer to people’s questions most often derived from scriptures and social norms. This action of asserting one’s own authority in places such as online forum environments are what Pauling Cheong refers to in her authority chapter as displacement. Cheong goes on to define displacement as “[referring] to the acts of apparent change or movement, including supplanting power and furnishing an equivalent authority in place of another.”
Concerning online Christian relations, especially Q&A forums similar to those found at Talk Jesus, traditional ideas of authority are undermined since there are no prerequisites to being allowed to take on questions on the Bible. The possibility of double-think theological views are much easier to be presented and must be taken account for in these areas of discussion. Although these possibilities exist and even take form in some traditional church bodies, the risk is significantly increased in online areas.
At Talk Jesus, one user is consistently found as a top poster by the name of Chad. Chad is the founder of the site and has had no formal education that would place him high in most traditional church positions (http://www.talkjesus.com/members/chad.html). But Chad’s well-written and well-sourced posts have gained him a noticeable following from members on the site, making him, in a basic sense, THE biblical authority of most posts.