I am reposting my 2011 review of The Next Story. There is now an expanded and revised version of the book, so it may have addressed some of my criticisms, but I have not read the revised version yet.
Takeaway: Technology is too important to not think about deeply. If anything can become an idol, then the things we spend most of our time and effort interacting with should be examined.
Normally, I write a review immediately after I read a book. And often will takes some notes about what I want to write as I read the book. Some books just have so much material that it is hard to deal with in one 400-500 word review. By the time I finished the book I already had about 1600 words written and no one really wants to read a 1600 word book review.
So I am going to write a summary review now. Then I am going to write two more posts to round out my thoughts about the book.
First, I think that while there are some issues I disagree with, I think this is a book that worth reading by many that want to think seriously about how we as Christians interact with culture, technology, transition and faith. Even when I disagree with him on some issues, I think he is respectful of the subject, is consistent theologically and he is pastorally and practically focused.
Second, I found it very helpful that Challies takes the important step of removing sin from objects. There is no technology that he wants to say “that is evil”. Evil or sin is about the human response, not the object itself. But he wants to help us think more deeply about how objects have tendencies that are often rooted in their original design purpose. His first example of this is the cell phone. Cell phones were primarily created for and sold initially to business that wanted to keep their staff (mostly sales) in contact with the home office. They were designed to make you more available than you really wanted to be and to be intrusive. Now that everyone has one, they continue to be intrusive and many people talk about how you are always available whether you want to be or not. (We can just turn them off, but we rarely take that option.)
Some of the most helpful portions of the book are the advice sections. These primarily are questions about how much we control (and actually take control) of our stuff and how much our stuff controls our lives. I play at the park all the time with my two nieces, and most of the adults are on cell phones most of the time (myself included). I also think there is a very interesting section on the difference between Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom. I come down differently than Challies in this section, but the discussion is very useful.
am going to write have written two additional blog posts, one about how Challies deals with the concept of Authority and one about how I think The Next Story is a reformed perspective. I really do respect the vigor that reformed authors are bringing to theology and cultural connections, but I am not reformed and I think that almost all of my issues with this book are on issues of reformed theology.