[Editor’s Note: This is week thirteen of the From the Garden to the City Blog Tour]
Technology changes us, is the overriding and clear message of this book.
From Adam’s invention of clothing to Edison’s invention of the lightbulb, technology is the means by which we transport ourselves to the better worlds we are constantly imagining.
What Dyer brings together in From the Garden to the City is a foundational understanding of technology, carefully crafted and considered to challenge us and make us think deeper. While simple, the message of change is so important we must take note and think through what it means.
As I thought about the unenviable task of summarising and wrapping up this blog tour, I was drawn more and more toward the thought; so technology changes us, okay, where do we go from here? Well, perhaps a series of self examination questions will help.
We’ve seen the two approaches to technology. Firstly, Determinism, the idea that technology is an unstoppable power and the sole reason for the problems we find. Secondly, Instrumentalism that states technology is completely inert with no power over us at all. Where do you stand, do some technologies lean one way or the other where is the middle ground?
The story of Noah’s Ark showed us beautifully how technology can have some redemptive value, but the story itself is really a foreshadow of our ultimate salvation and shows our need for dependance on Christ not technology. Are you truly dependant on Christ or do you keep some hope in technology to save you?
Chapter 8 explored Mediums and the subtle influence they have on our communication and how they transfer far more than just the words we write or say. We need to reflect on which mediums we are choosing to communicate vital truths – do our Gospel messages convey more about us than they do about our Saviour?
Technology brings trade offs, something new replaces something old, perhaps a process, activity or just time. It’s easy to test the positive aspects but the notion of trade offs to me implies there must be, at some point, a time when we say these trade offs are too great. Have we already given away too much to technological convenience have we traded away some core values already?
The Technology Tetrad presents a great lens through which to parse a technology more thoughtfully. Why not take the most pervasive or most used technology in your life and expose it through this grid.
But doing all this as a reader of the book in isolation is one thing, convincing your pastor that the church should spend time to consider the use of light switches is another. Conversely it’s too easy to just dismiss comments saying social networking isn’t always good for relationships. So what should we do?
Fortunately, Dyer doesn’t leave us hanging and wondering, and for any that haven’t read the book, at the very least you should read the final recommendations that come after the last chapter.
Dyer gives five steps in his Recommendations to help us follow the wise council of David Hopper that;
Christians cannot be content merely to criticize technology on the one hand, nor to simply look toward Christ’s return on the other.
We must live out our position in Christ, working out what our approach should be not just talking about it or ignoring it either. So let’s look at Dyer’s five steps.
The process of evaluating the technology to see what values emerge from it. I really like the simple example of the mobile used here. Dyer demonstrates from scripture the value of in person face-to-face communication, and contrasts the mobile’s disembodied method of communication. The important factor here being, we don’t therefore dismiss the mobile, but having thought it through we now understand where it’s values lie and how that might change us and our communication over time.
This is an obvious one and again seemingly easy perhaps to do, yet we often struggle as churches for fear of getting it wrong. This step urges a culture of experimenting to experience what it’s like, what may happen and what may change so that we can better comprehend our use of a technology.
Personally, I’d like to see more of this in churches. Wrestling with concepts and ideas in practice, holding our hands up when it fails and being willing to revert back when something isn’t working out. This goes wider than just technology perhaps, as it’s also about developing a culture of walking the fine line between being in the world and being of the world.
Without grasping the first two steps this step is often missed, and even when it’s acknowledged it is the hardest. Dyer warns,
It is here that the desires of the flesh emerge most strongly
The central idea of limitation is to begin to see what effect the technology is really having, often best seen once it is taken away or limited. Limitation requires us to put in boundaries of time or space where we don’t use a particular technology.
Counter-cultural to much of today’s technology Dyer speaks to the value of doing all these things together rather than in isolation.
Applying each of these steps together to each of these areas will not only help our wider understanding but will also protect us from personal technology bias and those technologies that we grew up with that just seem natural to us.
Helping and working with those that “do” technology. That is those working day in day out with it and developing it, those who will be designing and creating tomorrows technology. Dyer calls us to work towards helping these people think more theologically and Christianly about what they are making. A call I couldn’t agree more with.
Combining these steps with many of the other ideas and themes in this book I think will give us all a great basis on which to develop our theology of technology. As a New Media Developer I was anxious to see thought and detail go into our use of the web, new media and social networks, which Dyer only really spends a chapter on. As I read on I realised the importance of the foundation he gives us and the crucial and insightful anchor to scripture throughout.
I do feel there is a place for a second volume that deals more closely with the internet, and social media. The thinking Dyer gives us and the nature of this technology though suggest this volume is best played out online through our shared thinking and understanding and of course technology we now have, perhaps these are not our final thoughts thoughts, but just the beginning!
To close out; technology changes us there’s no escaping that, so let’s pray and make sure we have the wisdom to determine the how, why and when it does so, in order that those changes are ones that glorify His name all the more.
[Next week, we give-away two copies of John Dyer’s book, From the Garden to the City!]