Artificial Intelligence, China restrains video gamers to 3 hours a week, Ellul and Virilio, Fertile Soil for Idolatry, Google Revolution, Gutenberg Revolution, Spiritual Opium, Technology, The place of techology, The Social Dilemma, Unrestrained use of technology, Utility
Last summer Michael Morelli’s (Ph.D.) dissertation was published in which he explores what two prophetic French thinkers can teach us about faith, technology, and modernity.
He speaks to the subtle embrace, even the unrestrained attachment our generation has to the power of technology, and its subsequent utility of the person. Of course Morelli focusses on how the uninhibited use of technology has affected the modern Church.
Here is a brief excerpt from his book (source: Northwest News):
The Most Dangerous Temptation
“Ellul and Virilio expose how it is the utility and power of technologies, at base, that offers the most dangerous temptations for Christians – both individually and communally. After World War II, there were significant increases in the number of North American Christians and churches optimistic about and willing to use the power of technology to proclaim the gospel. In most instances, these efforts were motivated by the best of intentions, but there were situations where the motive – explicit or buried – was to claim influence, authority, and wealth. Such phenomena, I hope to have shown throughout this book, cultivate fertile soil for idolatry and violent power. And in fact, now, in the twenty-first century, the long-tern consequences of these best and worst cases and intentions are appearing and becoming quite similar, in fact, to those of the twentieth-century Europe. Nations are antagonizing nations, nations are internally divided, institutions increasingly are co-opted or crippled by state power, and disillusionment, rage, and violence are fomenting between groups and individuals. The difference is that today all of this is happening at a simultaneously global and local level, powered by rapidly developing technologies, with Christians and churches tossed to and fro, often becoming complicit, in the midst of it all…
To seize, use, and worship without restraint, the power technology offers to harmfully gain anyone or anything, including people, authority, and wealth, always risks forfeiture of the life of the believer and the life of the church.”
Michael Morelli is Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies, and Assistant Professor of Theology, Culture and Ethics at Northwest Seminary.
The Google Generation
Am I being a Luddite by cautioning our unrestrained embrace and easy succumbing to the temptation of technology? By now our observations are catching up to our concerns, and we are beginning to question what is “progress” actually?
Leonard Sweet, distinguished Professor at George Fox University, talks about the paradigm shift from the Gutenberg Revolution to the Google Revolution. As a professor he noted that it is not uncommon for students to have their lap tops open to take some notes, play a computer game on the side, survey social media platforms, and check in from time to time with Google on topics they may hear in the midst of half listening to the lecture.
It is into this reality that people do not so much read a book as popularized by the revolutionary invention of the Gutenberg Press – as they scan or partially attend to the images and messages found by searching Google. It must be said that before the Gutenberg press, most people’s only access to Scripture was to hear it on a Sunday morning. Such scant hearing meant if a person wanted to contemplate any of it, they would have to learn the skills of listening carefully and remembering what they heard as best as they could.
Then the printing press made it possible for a home to posses a “family Bible”. Such a holy book would endear sacred reading either as a family or by a single reader. Currently I have over a dozen Bibles in various translations and languages (which, it must be said, does not make me a dozen times better or more holy). Now with technology we have easy access to hundreds of languages and translations. In the church then, people have stopped bringing their printed Bibles, since the texts are often projected on an overhead screen, or accessed by any one of a number of devices as ubiquitous as one’s cell phone. There appears to be little reason to listen carefully, or to contemplatively engage scripture.
And regular scripture reading? Research shows the downward trend as a society, especially during this pandemic (source: CT: Bible Reading Drops during Social Distancing). When’s the last time you read your Bible?
It Comes at a Cost
Thus all this technology comes with a cost. All this supposed access means any text, if accessed at all, is sequestered out of context. Gone is the skill of reading anything in a larger context, or larger meta-narrative, or in a larger community of faithful seekers who discuss, debate, and want to understand and apply God’s word.
Unfortunately the most damning outcome of technology, Morelli points out, is the fact that “Christians are often becoming complicit in cultivating the fertile soils for idolatry and violent power – and – risking forfeiture of the life of the believer and the life of the church.” As Jesus said:
What will it profit a person [or an institution] if they gain the whole world and forfeit their life?
Lord have mercy.