While pondering the perfect Christmas present for that someone special, you’ve undoubtedly come to the conclusion that there can be no better gift than a book on technology and faith. But you might be thinking, “There are just so many books are out there – how do I choose the right one for my special someone?” It turns out that Santa’s face is shining upon you, because I’ve put together a special buying guide just for you.
The Uber-Intellectual, Tweed Jacket Wearing Brainiac
Brian Brock‘s Christian Ethics in an Age of Technology is unparalleled in its depth of research (covering Augustine, Heidegger, Grant, Foucoult, and more), analysis of the conceptual roots of modern science and technology, and commitment to theologically “thick” answers. If you’re not really an academic type, this might not be the book for you. But if you’ve got an egghead who eats dissertations for breakfast, this is your book.
The Zen-Like Hipster, Emergent, McLuhanite
Before he was Rob Bell’s successor at Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Shane Hipps was ad executive for Porsche. But he became disenchanted with the idea of using images to convince people to buy things they didn’t need, and so he became a pastor and studied the ideas and catchphrases of Marshall McLuhan. Eventually he went on to write the McLuhan-inspired Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith which, in addition to having one of the best titles in this round up, introduces several new catchphrases and gives a nice overview of McLuhan’s thought. (note: in Flickering Pixels, Hipps doesn’t address any of the typical hot button “emergent” issues. It’s focused specifically on media.)
The Hilarious, Pop Culture Guy with Hidden Depth
Adam Thomas‘s publisher labels him the “one of the first priests from the millennial generation,” but I would call him one of the funniest and most insightful people I’ve emailed but never met. His book Digital Disciple is the perfect match of insider tech humor and deeply reflective Christian spirituality. His book is just the right length for non-readers and it even includes discussion questions for small groups. I appreciate how he urges us not just to react against technology, but to strive to see God in it.
The Young, Restless, Reformed, Canadian Tech Junkie
Tim Challies is only in his 30s, but he’s undoubtedly the grandaddy of Christian blogging and a faithful representative of Reformed and Puritan thought. He’s also been involved in web design and computer consulting for years, and he brings that unique combination to The Next Story in which he applies Neil Postman’s thought swirled together with some healthy Biblical wisdom to issues like distraction, privacy, and anonymity. Tim and I even worked together a bit on a definition of technology, leading to my tongue-in-cheek endorsement: “As the co-author of 13 words in Tim’s new book, I’m very happy that he, with his skill as a writer, his experience as a web designer, and his deeply informed, discerning faith, wrote the other 60,000.”
The Sensitive Engineering Linguist
The title of Brad Kallenberg’s book is God and Gadgets: Following Jesus in a Technological Age. Yet while the book is definitely about “God” it’s not so much concerned with specific “gadgets” as it is with the powerful patterns of life and language that emerge when we surround ourselves with tools of all kinds. Kallenberg invokes heavy hitters like Heidegger and Wittgenstein, but he isn’t overly academic in his approach, and he draws from his diverse experience as a chemist, a campus minister, an engineer, and a philosophy professor. His unique emphasis on language makes this short book a nice addition to any library on technology and faith.
The Half-Amish, Half-Cyborg Polymath
What Technoloy Wants is one of the strangest and most thought-provocative books I’ve ever read (see my multi-part review). Then again, Kevin Kelly is about as close as they come to a real life “Most Interesting Man Alive” (complete with beard). A co-founder of Wired magazine who converted to Christianity while sleeping on the floor of an Israeli church, he offers a sweeping view of technology history drawing parallels between biological evolution and the progression of technology. For those who like way out there stuff, this is the book to get.
The Jack of All Trades, Theologian, Creative-Type “Honorable Mention”
Finally, I can’t help but mention my own contribution to the discussion. I hoped to have included some of Challies’s Postman-like critiques and Biblical insight, a bit of Hipps’s McLuhan-channelling, some good, light-hearted story-telling like Thomas, a glimmer of Brock’s academic and theological underpinnings, the breadth and depth of Kallenberg’s work, and maybe even some off-the-wall Kellyisms. In From the Garden to the City, I wanted to highlight how technology is a powerful, beautiful, and necessary expression of the Image of God present in all of us, while also grappling with how everything we make, use, and do – including technology – has the potential to shape us personally, spiritually, and relationally.
Feel free to add your favorites in the comments. Merry Christmas!