27 June 2017

A DTS Podcast on Theology and Technology

A recent Dallas Theological Seminary podcast on technology and theology provided a sobering instance of worldview teaching's syncretistic tendencies. It might be added the failure and unbiblical nature of worldview-Dominionism can have startling implications for both the Church and the culture. When it comes to technology the stakes are high and I found myself a bit taken aback by the guest's shortsightedness, even blindness when it comes to these questions.


Evangelicalism's worldliness is brought to the fore in this interaction with technology. Though morality and ethics are occasionally mentioned, the guest seems woefully inadequate and incapable of even entertaining the real issues. Technology is fundamentally moral in that in changes our relationship to work, leisure and our values with regard to the same. It profoundly affects social relationships with regard to questions of employment, time, energy and whether our focus is self-serving or for the good of the community. And which community? This is a different question Christians must wrestle with.
Technology has always presented a host of challenges but the lack of insight and in particular wisdom was striking. There's a real failure to understand how the new techno-computer age is different than the industrial era and some of the admittedly profound life and culture changes represented by inventions like electricity and the automobile. They changed lives and yes, people got used to it. But he never seems to entertain the questions as to whether or not these were good things.
It doesn't take a great deal of wisdom to understand all these technologies were and are two-edged swords bringing both good and bad to the culture. But again, as the Church, shouldn't we think on a different level? Realistically we can't avoid the technologies. The Amish way is rife with problems. But a case could be made that the Church has woefully failed in teaching its people about the moral nature of technology. Even if the Church doesn't provide all the answers or a set of rules, the people have not been given any intellectual or spiritual apparatus to work through the questions. And I heard nothing from this teacher. In fact the viewpoint was egregious in that it would seem that almost universally the technology of our day was being embraced.
The theologian in question proved most blind or deceived when it came to the analogy of electricity and the car with the computer age. No one is disputing that electricity, the car and television transformed lives and society as whole. Yes, the car created a type of hitherto unknown realm of autonomy and mobility. It was profound.
Yet, the new technology is on the brink of redefining the nature of humanity, the self, the nature of relationships and certainly questions with regard to reality.
I did not detect any hint of antithesis. And no surprise such thinking is mostly at odds with Evangelical thinking and impulses.
I found myself all but loathing this typically effeminate voice of the modern era. Curmudgeon that I am, I will continue to insist these issues need to be reconsidered. A Neo-Luddite in inclination I am not advocating the embrace of Amish life, but something closer to their ethic and process when it works rightly. Obviously I'm not anti-technology. I'm typing this on a computer. I have a website. But this so-called theologian of technology is a blind guide incapable of even understanding the issues... let alone providing a commentary. It's telling how far Dallas has fallen that they would give voice to this liberal-ish Evangelical.
Additionally it must be argued that Humans are not another species.
I understand this is meant biologically but at that point I will argue that mere biological classification of human beings is necessarily a false reductionism. This points to the essence and heart of scientific and technological failure. These methodologies can tinker with matter but they cannot provide comprehensive understandings of reality. The theologian in question seems to embrace the notion that the truths of techno-science can be synthesised with Scripture. This provides a so-called Biblical worldview.
Except it doesn't. It's religious syncretism, a form of idolatry.
Techno-science is fine when restricted to its limited sphere. The culture has been misled on this point and yes, we ought to speak and proclaim the truth to society... but especially within the Church. We need explain that the techno-sphere is incapable of providing meaning to life and if it's changing the nature of humanity or spinning lies about reality by redefining it and the people who inhabit it, then we as the Church need to provide a counter Christ-rooted narrative.
Do we believe Christ or not? Do we have faith in the Scripture and the cosmology (and anthropology) it reveals or not? I would argue this theologian has failed this test.
When I hear 'Bible' teachers speak this way, that humans are a species, a host of red-flags go up. The discussion near the end with regard to genetics, AI, Singularity etc. was not only misguided, I found it (coming from so-called Christian teachers) to be frightening. His views represent an impoverished view of humanity, mind and existence.
God help us and save us from such 'worldview teachers'.

The podcast, YouTube video and transcript can be found at the following link: http://www.dts.edu/thetable/play/technology/

3 comments:

  1. It is indeed scary. An interesting question would be how technology has shaped Charismaticism, or even made it possible. Looking back at the church I grew up going to, I can see how much of the emotional frenzy wouldn't be possible without the use of microphones, a very loud sound system, and now emotive video clips on the digital projectors.

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  2. I was the guest on the podcast. I read your post with interest, because I appreciate the chance to learn from a critique. I find myself in agreement on your general points that humanity is not just another species and on the importance of recognizing that humanity may in fact be close to using technology to redefine itself. So I'm not quite sure what exactly I said that would give you the impression otherwise. Perhaps I was unclear in my words, or perhaps it was because this conversation grew out of a series of lectures I gave at DTS which might have provided more of the foundations that you're looking for. I've also outlined some of them in a popular-level primer on theology and technology (https://www.amazon.com/dp/0825426685). Thank you again for the reminder to speak with clarity and conviction. Blessings, JD

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  3. I find the comment interesting because it indicates that you did little more than skim my critique.

    The human 'species' issue was almost an aside, something mentioned in passing.

    The core issues of disagreement are far more profound and are in actuality rooted in questions regarding the Kingdom of God, the nature of man's dominion (or lack thereof) and what is the future, indeed the telos of this age. I contend you have gravely misunderstood these questions and thus your view of how the Church is to interact with the world and by extension technology is deeply flawed.

    I was surprised to discover T David Gordon wrote the forward to your book. I have long appreciated his lectures, sermons and strong rejection of Theonomy and yet it would seem he is nevertheless a Kuyperian.
    His position reminds me of several of the theologians associated with Westminster West. They avoid the extreme errors found in Rushdoony-ite Christian Reconstruction but nevertheless embrace an essentially Dominionist and Sacralist understanding of theology and the Christian's relation to the world.

    What continues to fascinate is how an institution like DTS made the shift from Dispensationalism's gloomy social prognosis once typified by men such as Hal Lindsey and J Vernon McGee to the Dominion theology of Francis Schaeffer. While I cannot endorse the theology, let alone the eschatology of Lindsey or McGee their ethos vis-à-vis the world was closer to the truth.

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