Monday, November 01, 2004

Faith and Technology

I spent part of last week at Yale Divinity School where I serve on the National Working Group of the Faith as a Way of Life, a Lilly Endowment-funded initiative of Yale's Center for Faith and Culture. It's a group of pastors, youth pastors, theologian, business persons, and artists who are meeting over the course of three years. Our task is to collectively reflect on faith, not as some ad hoc application to life's issues and problems, but as a thoroughgoing enterprise. Chris Scharen, who directs the project, blogs here.

So we were talking about family life this time, and on Friday afternoon we had a conversation that caught the first real traction since we've started meeting. There was, it seemed to me, a growing consensus in the group (and catalyzed by the book we had read) that modern technology is, on the whole, bad for the practice of the Christian faith -- that it keeps people from practicing our faith.

Well, there was also a minority (of which I was one) which claimed that it's not that simple. Someone noted that pew Bibles in churches were once a new technology, and I suggested that microphones may have been the biggest technological change to the church (enabling congregations of more than a few hundred). Someone else said, no, it was electricity.

So why did the church allow these technological innovations, but we now decry cell phones and laptops as dictating our days? Probably because these earlier decisions -- to use electricity, microphones, overhead projectors, etc. -- were not made theologically. There were most likely made based on practical concerns. They slipped into our sanctuaries under the dark of night.

So our group tried to start thinking theologically about technology and the life of the family. However, what was a little surprising was how quickly we devolved into personal and pragmatic arguments for our positions. Turns out it's really hard to think theologically, even for professionals.

So I'm starting to think that the key to developing "faith as a way of life" is to inculcate in people the ability to think theologically, and that this ability would become second nature for followers of Jesus.


Blogger Chris Enstad said...

YES!!!!! Amen brother.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Danielle said...

i too am a part of the faith as a way of life working group and heard the comments that were made first hand- and it was indeed interesting that so many who are served so well by technology quickly jumped to the conclusion that technology (on the whole) serves to "keep us" from living out our faith as a way of life.
as Tony so thoughtfully stated- the issue is rooted in "inclucating" people into thinking theologically- but as we have shown in this working group- that is even be a challenge for those who are in one way or another charged with "thinking theologically" in their profession.
I truly believe the answer is to so intimately study, practice, and immerse ourselves in the larger story that God bends over backwards to draw us into. As we are drawn into that story- it is obvious that our personal experience is the vehicle God uses to "do the drawing" and so the question is- is thinking theologically the answer- or are personal experiences so intimately related to theology that it is impossible to separate the two?

6:52 AM  
Blogger Charlie McGlynn said...

It is funny that you are discussing technology and Christianity on a blog. Some Christians will obviously be disappointed with the integration of technology in their church or even in their walk of faith. I believe that this is a relatively new approach to examine whether or not technology dampens or even prevents us from our faith. Technology should be embraced and used in a better way than what secular culture uses it for.

8:50 AM  
Blogger Chris Enstad said...

I think you can just click on my name to get to my blog.

Otherwise it's

3:19 PM  
Blogger Dave Sheldon said...

I personally think the biggest technologic thing that enters our churches was the toilet. That is right the water closest. Think about it … what devote follower of Jesus would allow someone to take a crap in the house of God. We do not do that here!

7:52 AM  
Blogger James said...

Perhaps what we you, Tony, are saying by "thinking theologicaly" is close to what Paul said in 1 Cor. 2:16, when he talks about the mind of Christ. It is probably safe to say that Christ was thiking theologically (or does that make him self centered...? :), and that thinking theologically helps us to be as he is.
My mentor taught me a saying "Pragmatism is not the Panecea" - the trouble that seems to arise is that all of our theology takes place in a context, our culture, that is tirelessly pragmatic and individualized/personalized. If we can train our minds to ask questions of theology before pragmatism/preference...perhaps that is what living as Christ lived actually means. Maybe that would radically change the church. Instead of WWJd, we coudl say what questions would Jesus ask in this situation? What would Jesus think and ponder and consider?

James Carmichael

8:57 AM  
Blogger el mol said...

this is a thoughtful blog . . . but so solipsistic . . no links, no friends, no pictures . . just you . . .ALL YOU . . .

I enjoy reading it . .

Jason Mitchell

1:23 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

i would love to see this group have a conversation with andrew jones.

7:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anybody think about the fact that all that "new technology" we get is from God and therefore should be used to glorify him?

11:03 AM  

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