Modern societies are facing a profound crisis in their inability to make moral sense of their technological capacities, a crisis which, according to Jardine, is a manifestation of a more fundamental issue: the ability for humans to positively change their environment. Until now, individual freedom has been the prized goal and way of modern liberal life. However, this goal of democracy has failed to adequately answer the all-important question of just how people should live. The result of this modern problem is that we live in societies that are sick, individualistic and aesthetic-obsessed, largely due to the fact that man’s creativity has not been disciplined or limited by any viable ethical norms and values. Despite the fact that mankind has made much tremendous technological and industrial progress from the fifteenth century to the present day, we simply have not managed ourselves very well morally, and are beginning to realize that technological progress does not equate to overall human progress: “…we have yet to discover a way of thinking about how we ought to live that can indicate how we should use our newly discovered ability to change our environment, or, stated differently, how we can use our technological powers in a constructive way.” [i]
So what is the answer? For Jardine, the solution for the prevailing moral crisis lies in a Christian context, and is intricately bound up with the ability of considering the needs of the other. He writes, “Charity, or unconditional love, can be understood as the ethical virtue that logically follows form the human situation as conceptualized in the Bible… People speak differently, and understand the world differently. Thus they will tend to have disagreements and conflicts over how they should live… The only way these potential conflicts and disagreements can be resolved, so that humans can proceed in their role of cocreators, is through constantly putting oneself in the position of the other… This is what is meant by unconditional love, and is captured in the exhortation to ‘walk a mile in my shoes.’” [ii] Living lives based on this ethic of love is essentially imitating the way of Christ, thus bringing hope of redemption in a hurting world.
In addition to this practice of unconditional love as a cure for the healing of our hurting world, Jardine explains the role of speech. He explains how since we, as humans, are made in the imago Dei, we too have the power to create through our words, our speech, just as God did in the creation account. Not in the divine sense of bringing physical objects out of nothing, but in the sense of influential conversations, creative stories, inspiriting dialogue, mutual understanding and so on. In other words, positively changing our world one conversation at a time. Changing our world then lies beyond the keyboard and laboratory wall, and is found within communities of face-to-face, not virtual, conversations and speech.
He extends this argument by explaining how our very identity, our ‘place’, in this world originates as responsible speakers before God. He cites the example of Abraham, who, without geographical and social place, found his ultimate ‘place’ and identity through his relationship with God: “Abraham’s only place, therefore, is as a speaker before God. In the biblical anthropology, this is ultimately the only human place. In the biblical stories, most of the pivotal characters are wanderers and social outcasts, with no place in the world. Similarly, when God speaks to people in the Bible, the conversations almost always occur in the desert or on mountaintops, where there is…nothing! This fundamental insight again follows logically from the biblical cosmology.. if reality is a dynamic, creative process like the spoken word, then the only possible human place is as a faithful or responsible speaker.” [iii]
Jardine challenges the reader then to reconsider the quality of one’s reality through identity, values and place in the world. He essentially believes that the cure for our anemic consumer culture, is found within Christianity, or rather, a transformed Christianity. Because of our propensity for greed, violence and destruction, finding our identity as responsible speakers before God should in turn place limits on man, and thus prevent the misuse of our creative abilities.
All in all, Jardine proposes that we need to find a way to save ourselves from social and ethical nihilism, and a socio-economic arrangement that is unsustainable due to human beings’ inability to love, hope, and trust. We need to create local communities of harmony where real old-fashioned face-to-face conversation, love and faith can exist, and that will lead to a new social and political order: “Thus, as Christian faith develops and the ethic of unconditional love is applied, humans can begin both to understand the world and to treat each other differently. Science and technology can develop, political freedom can be established, slavery can be abolished, women can be recognized as equal to men, and children can be recognized as fully human.” [iv] Seems to me he is simply echoing the words of the New Testament to build each other up in faith and love; to do good works and pursue righteousness; to not give up meeting together, but to encourage one another; to find our identity in God and love one another. May God give us the wisdom and humility we need to simply apply these ageless God-given solutions to our new, technological contexts.