The New Nervous System
It is time that we at least entertain the idea that communication technology is the new nervous system. Entertaining such a thought is merely helping Christians respond with theological discernment to our culture that continues to evolve technologically. We often use the term “Old School” loosely to define those unwilling to conform to the new way of transmitting information and connecting or maintaining relationships. The reality is that changing how we communicate with and through technology will affect every society negatively or positively because “we live in a world where our digital technologies are increasingly intersecting with our spiritual lives” (101, Kindle).
The authors brought great historical context to reflect our evolution from orality to the printing press. Many of you reading this blog might be too young to remember the revivals in the early 1900s (trust me, I wasn’t around either). However, The Apostolic Faith, the Azusa Street revival newspaper documented all God was doing from 1906-1908 to people around the world. People were inspired by what God was doing by simply a newspaper article. There’s no doubt that technology back then would have created a greater impact on Pentecostalism by intersecting with people’s spiritual lives across the globe. Not only would the information be available quicker but the information would spread farther. Churches in recent months have tried Livestream, Snapchat, and Facebook Live, to give the world immediate access to their worship by leveraging the availability of digitalization.
We have evolved to a place where human activities are served by technology through what the authors call information ecology. This is a “system of people, practices, values and technologies in a particular local environment. In information technologies, the spotlight is not on technology; but on human activities that are served by technology” (35). Technology unites people through relationships by causing them to respond to societal events. In 1995, less than 1% of the world’s population used the internet, but in 2016 we saw that number increase to more than 40% of the population using the internet. The evolutionary process of theology causes us to adapt to how theology is transmitted to culture.
The authors believe theology is networked and that we should make “theology visible through the eyes of media studies and the network metaphor” (12). Their assumption is that our religious approaches to new media require an awareness of technological trends and an analysis of Christian ethics in the media influenced world. This is a fair assumption that will help us create a “framework for identifying an authentic theology of new media that relates to their faith communities” (136, Kindle). We are not ignoring the Christian traditions that “guide our response to these new relationships and patterns of interaction” (146, Kindle). The challenge is not to limit the potential of the gospel in our digitalized world for tradition. Naturally, some have tainted the effectiveness of the church with technology by exposing poor Christian ethics, but we’ve also seen the exposure of excellence because of technology.
What do we learn by reading this book? Well, we learn three things:
- Theological Anthropology – the nature of being human. It’s an inescapable reality that religious and cultural pluralism characterizes the human family, but the goal is to develop a conversation with the doctrinal framework.
- Ecclesiology and theology of society – the nature of human social relations. Rather than assess the validity of religious beliefs, we focus technology influence how we behave theologically.
- Theology of Culture and Mission Theology – re- visioning Christian faithfulness. Paul Tillich first wrote about the theology of culture regarding focusing on existentialism and spiritualism. In this book we find the authors using technology to re-vision how technology helps to express the existence of our theology.
It is easy for us to overemphasize the things we lose with having new technology like carrying around a bible but we should not ignore how people are able to search scriptures easier. The technological shift is a tension we never stop managing. “The network is embedded with both positive and negative narratives,” but “offering us hope for a better future through technology” and yes, “along with the seeds of fear that our technologies will seduce or enslave us.” However, if we are to be enslaved or seduced let’s use technology as a strategic initiative to interconnect theology.
3 responses to “The New Nervous System”
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As a musician I bet technology has a great deal of ways to serve you. What have you done to make sure the technology serves you and not the other way around? Does this book help you with your research at all?
Thanks for another great provocative and innovative blog. Campbell and Garner discuss how a networked theology must address questions relating to human relationships between the physical and digital worlds we inhabit. From your perspective, what do you believe are some of the most ethical challenges for Christians navigating these two worlds?
Great blog! I particularly liked your connection with the transmission of information over the Azusa Revival and how much different it would be with today’s technology. Is there any technology that you believe we the church should be experiementing with today?