The book, Networked Theology: Negotiating Faith in Digital Culture, was written by Heidi A. Campbell and Stephen Garner. In their point of view, media studies and theology can offer insight to help Christians assess the impact of media on our lives and on our religious orientations. The Internet holds promise for the future direction, shape, and influence of religion.
The authors state, “In this book, our theological reflection is focused on technology, and specifically on the Internet and digital technologies, often described as ‘new media.’” In this era of digital media, the meaning of interaction has been redefined by the technological advances. This change is vital to the extent that it has a profound effect on our social and religious lives.
In Networked Theology, American professor of sociology and theology, Heidi Campbell, and Australian theologian, Stephen Garner, examine the theological implications of our digital culture. According to Quentin Schultze, professor of communication at Calvin College, “The book offers a fine introduction to the major themes at the intersection between theology and technology in the today’s world of digital media.”
Campbell and Gartner introduce the metaphor of network, which they use to show how the Internet functions and how our social interactions work. Within the digital culture, our relationships with each other and information have changed from “static controlled structures to more dynamic and adaptive connections. Campbell and Gartner then proceed to build on the concept of the network to show that networked religion has five main characteristics: networked communities, storied identities, convergent practices, shifting authority, and multisite reality. Of the five, the fourth one, shifting authority is of particular interest: Digital media not only reflects who we are, but will drive the future and define who we are. The authors argue, “The Internet is a place where negotiations are occurring over who and what constitutes legitimate religious leader and gatekeeper of knowledge.”
The first chapter, “Understanding the Relationship between Theology and Technology,” starts with a basic coverage of the connection between theology and technology. The content sheds light on the advantages, disadvantages, and three recorded reactions of the Christian church: positive, negative, and instrumentalist. The authors state that the representation of network, “Stresses that within digital culture our associations with information and others have altered from stagnant, controlled structures to dynamic, adaptive associations.”
Modern technology has become embedded in our lives. Despite the reality that technology is important, it has the power to redesign our religious orientations, which makes it crucial to consider learning the art of adaption. Chapter two, “Understanding New Media and the Network Society,” provides an understanding of the changes erupting in our society. The authors’ statement, “An advantage of networked individuality is that it supports active contribution. Examples of this are crowd sourcing, problem solving via blogging,” highlights the magnitude of the Internet.
Furthermore, the book poses questions such as, “Who is my neighbor in digital culture?” and elucidates aspects of diminishing privacy and how connecting to a larger group of people can prove to be beneficial. In addition, as the digital media is being accepted progressively more, the precedence of religion must be considered. Understanding how religious beliefs and technology work together requires us to be aware of what they are; the book explains them in detail.
They provide readers with few guiding principles to understand the impacts of technology. They advance a threefold outlook of Micah, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” The application of this approach can be reached by firmly believing the word of God and by communicating this in this new networked society: “In an age of speedy transactions and angry tweets, the idea of walking humbly might mean not relying on technology or the church for fixes.”
The importance of the web in our daily lives, from expressing ourselves to our personal and working environments, means that for religious organizations to remain relevant and be able to work effectively, “they must migrate their churches online, where most of their followers are.” By combining their expertise in matters of online theology, technology, and religion, the authors show, through the concept of networked theology, how digital media can shape theology. In particular, they highlight how technology has become influential in how people practice their faith today.
I like how the authors define and discuss the concepts of both technology and theology without becoming too technical for their nonspecialist audience, which makes the book easier to read. The authors urge church leaders to take technology seriously and to develop constructive ways of dealing with it. I believe the book is an important resource for those studying media and theology and how to help Christians engage in a meaningful and faithful evaluation of the new digital media technologies in our lives, the church, and society as a whole.
This book made me ponder the significance of technology in today’s world. As technology has advanced to occupy our daily lives, there is a looming need to use its power constructively. The authors leave readers with an urge to grow their own religious beliefs on how to intermingle with the new technological change. However, the Leaders at the Restoration Christian Outreach community is being challenged in our planning strategies that will facilitate the spiritual growth or discipleship of the community culture believers into Christ-likeness in ways that best fit the community … “sharing the good news in a new ways”. This book will be helpful for us, while struggling with how to use digital media positively to spread the news of creation of a faith-based drug program in southwest Mississippi that can change recovering individuals’ social environment, that can be adopted by other drug-recovery programs.
. J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, “‘Get on the Internet!’ Says the LORD: Religion, Cyberspace and Christianity in Contemporary Africa.” Studies in World Christianity 13, no. 3 (2007): 225–242.
. Heidi A. Campbell and Stephen Garner. Networked Theology: Negotiating Faith in Digital Culture (Ada Township, MI: Baker Academic, 2016), 17.
. James Paul Gee, “Digital Media and Learning as an Emerging Field, Part I: How We Got Here.” International Journal of Learning and Media 1, no. 2 (2009): 13–23.
. Campbell and Garner, Networked Theology, 124.
. Campbell and Garner, Networked Theology.
. Aleks Krotoski, Untangling the Web: The Internet’s Transformative Impact on Adoption. New York: Faber & Faber, 2013.
. Sullins, John. 2012. Information Technology and Moral Values. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2012. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/it-moral-values/ (accessed January 20, 2017).
. Harrison Rainie and Barry Wellman. 2012. Networked: The New Social Operating System. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
. Campbell and Garner, Networked Theology.
. Thomas, Michael, ed. Deconstructing Digital Natives: Young People, Technology, and the New Literacies. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2011.
. Campbell and Garner, Networked Theology, 74.
. Ibid., 124.
. Ibid., 140.
. Krotoski, Untangling the Web.