At first, I thought iFaith was going to be another volume in the growing list of books that attempt to understand technology through the lens of Christian theology. Instead, pastor Dan has written a book on Christian spirituality that uses our hyperconnected world as its starting point. He doesn’t talk so much about technology as he uses the situations of we all find ourselves in today and then redirects those toward the more traditional spiritual disciplines of prayer, friendship, and communion with God.
If you know young adults who struggle with more classic works on Christian spirituality you might recommend they give iFaith a try. It’s short and punchy, but I think it’s value comes in starting where a lot of people are today and then drawing them into something deeper.
Friday Five Interview
Dan also sent me a list of questions about my forthcoming book From the Garden to the City. Here’s the first few questions:
A professor in seminary shocked your thinking by saying, “The worst thing you can believe is that technology is neutral.” I’ve always subscribed to this theory. What’s wrong with that view?
When we say, “technology is neutral,” we usually mean that our tools aren’t themselves morally good or evil, because what matters is the way in which we use them. Computers should be used for Bible study, not porn; phones for calling in pizza orders, not bomb threats; and shovels for building orphanages, not axe-murdering.
But what we often forget is that whether we use a shovel for good (building an orphanage) or evil (axe-murdering) either way we end up with blisters at the end of the day. And as we continue using our shovels, those blisters will turn into calluses and our arms and backs will get more muscular.
In other words, tools and technology are not neutral because while we use them to transform the world, they transform us in turn. And they don’t just transform our bodies. They also transform business and culture. We acknowledge as much when we say, “iTunes changed the music industry,” or “Kindle has transformed the way we buy and read books.”
If you buy that, then the bigger question is, “Can technology change my soul?”
You say that we often consume technology without fully understanding its impact. How is this dangerous?
About ten years ago, when I got my first job as a youth pastor, I bought a video projector so I could show passages of Scripture onscreen for kids who didn’t have Bibles.
After a few months, I noticed that even fewer kids were bringing Bibles, and those who did bring Bibles never opened them. At first I worried that I was the world’s worst youth pastor, until I realized that there was no reason for them to open their Bibles if I was projecting it onscreen.
Clearly, the projector was not “neutral” in the sense that using it transformed the way my kids and I encountered the Word of God. I’m not saying that I know whether it’s better or worse for kids to read from their own personal copy of the Bible versus reading projected text, but I do think it’s important for us to recognize these kinds of changes that technology brings.
Technology has given unprecedented opportunities for the church to expand the gospel witness in the world. Has technology has been a net plus?
Ever since Adam and Even invented clothing (Gen 3:7) and God gave them a free upgrade (Gen. 3:21), humans have shown incredible ingenuity in creating technology that can (partially) overcome the effects of the fall. It’s almost like we really were created in the image of someone who himself is really good at creating! Advances in medicine over the last century have greatly reduced infant mortality and significantly increased life expectancies. Communication technologies offer tremendous opportunities for spreading the gospel. I am personally involved in writing online education software for a seminary, and Bible software for distributing the Scriptures in closed countries.
But I’m not so concerned with whether or not technology offers us a “net plus” as I am with helping us recognize that technology always brings a “net change.”
Cars have changed where we live, microphones have increased the sizes of our churches, microwaves alter family mealtime, and video projectors reconfigure our experience of the Word. Focusing all our time on whether technology is “bad” or “good” tends to blind us from all of these other very significant changes that technology brings.
Read the rest here: