My general review of The Next Story: Life and Faith After The Digital Explosion is basically very positive. I had a lot of disagreements about Challies’ conception of Authority, but still think it is a good book.
But after I read this interview where Challies thought he was not writing a Reformed perspective on technology I thought I would write one more brief post about where I think his reformed perspective is showing through. I am not opposed to Reformed theology, and I do not want him to not write from a Reformed perspective, but I do think it is helpful to be aware of our theology so we can better understand how our backstories play into how we conceive of the world.
Authority, is the biggest ‘tell’ that Challies is writing a Reformed perspective on Technology. I already wrote a post on that so I am not going to say much more. But I want to argue that the individual is not the best arbiter of authority. Challies seems to argue that we should defer to what the individual believes, in spite of contrary evidence (maybe I am misunderstanding him here, but when he brings up problems with photography as it questions a person’s memory as to what happened, then I think what his arguing is that the individual, not technology should be given more weight.) We have all seen crime drama’s where a person’s testimony was shown to be mistaken. There is a very good book, Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me, that is all about how our brains are designed to distort memory. Authority in my non-reformed conception, should defer to the principle that is most able to address truth. That may be too pragmatic of an answer, but short of insisting that tradition should should never trump evidence, I think it is a good middle ground.
A second (and third) area of Reformed Theology was brought up by Chris Ridgeway over at the JesusCreed Blog. The point Ridgeway brings up is that Challies sees technology as post-fall, Ridgeway (and I) think that technology is pre-fall. I view creativity as part of the image of God that we are given at original creation. Reformed theology particularly is focused on original sin and the fallenness of the world. While I believe in both doctrines, I do not believe that creativity is result of the fall, but I do believe that some of the things people create are a result of sinful desires. I do not think Challies believes that everything created is sinful, I do think he leans further toward the sin potential of created things that I want to lean.
The second issue Ridgeway brings up is that most of the issues that Challies bring up as issues with technology, are not primarily issues with technology, but with the people behind the technology. All those emails, text messages, etc. are in reality people. So is it really an issue with technology and our lives being controlled by technology or is it dealing (in good and bad ways) with people. Admittedly, mediation through technology can hinder and limit communication, but the point is that we are still communicating with people, not with machines. We need to remember that sometimes the mediation hinders communication and sometimes it helps communication. I do not think this is a expressly reformed issue, but I do think that Christians in general can occasionally forget that people are the point. Appearance of sin and not actual sin, is a big issue with technology and ‘worldliness’.
I am sure I have all kinds of blind spots because of my own theological bias. But I think it is a useful exercise to try and tease out differences, not to divide, but to better understand. I am grateful for this book. I thought about about it and probably bored some people talking about it. But that is sign of a good book.