"I'm attached to my phone." "I spend way too much time on the computer." "Just text me." "Facebook me." "Love my Ipod. I have music at my fingertips all the time." "My husband and I sit in the same room on the same couch and we IM each other." I can honestly say that I've heard someone say one of these comments or I myself have been guilty of these thoughts. For a while, I have thought a lot about technology and the fact that it is good and I like it. However, with all of these new things coming out, I find myself adapting and becoming more reliant on technology. At times, I get lost in blogs because I want to know more about these people who write them, whether they are my friends or blogs that I just enjoy reading or gathering information from.
John Dyer talks about how technology can affect our relationship with God. He talks about how technology is great at making large groups of people do things that they probably wouldn't do as individuals. He warns about social networking and how powerful it can be in our lives. I think many of us can attest to that. I mean, I (and many of my friends) have had to cut down on computer time because it was eating away into their productive time. I know you've heard people say that they are addicted to Facebook. Dyer brings awareness about how social networking changes our culture, whether good or bad.
I enjoyed the chapter where he discusses how God can operate both through and against technology if He so chooses. It was a good reminder that technology can have the tendency to rob us of our precious time that God intended for us to use in a different way. This sometimes happens without us knowing it. He shares that the nature of technology is to transform. Think about it. That's usually a sales pitch..."it'll transform the way you spend your time." "It'll make you more productive." "It'll change your life." The question is: How will we let it transform us? Will we let it control us or will we control it? What kind of limits do we need to set for ourselves? When does technology become a problem?
I never thought about technology in relationship to the Bible and God before. I enjoyed the correlations Dyer made and thought that it was very interesting. If you want to understand this correlation more, check out this book.
I received this book free rom Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest opinion of this book.
We live in a rapidly developing technological age. Tools are being developed faster than we can evaluate their impact. How should Christians understand this era and the influence technology has upon them?
Dyer loves God...and technology. He combined seminary studies with computer programming. When a seminary professor stated that one of the most dangerous things to believe was that technology was neutral, it set Dyer thinking. He had been building websites for churches. How could technology not be "neutral"?
His investigations revealed little about how technology fits into the redemptive story. As he read McLuhan and Postman he began to find some troubling ideas that made him wonder if technology was what it seemed. He started a blog which eventually resulted in this book.
The title refers to the Garden of Eden and the Jim Jones cult of the 1970s. In both cases people consumed something they didn't fully understand. Is the same thing happening today?
Dyer notes that prior to the printing press, people heard the Word of God. It has only been the last 500 years that the printed text has been the dominant form of communication. We are returning to a culture of spoken words. What does this change mean?
There are two ways to understand technology and life, Dyer writes. Either God has a purpose and plan and technology is a part of it, or, there is no God and technology is the answer for the future.
Dyer examines familiar biblical stories to find clues as to how Christians should approach technology. From Genesis 2, "God designed the world in such a way to be cultivated and shaped by humanity, and when we create we are operating as God's image-bearers." (54) From the Fall, "...we must be careful not to believe the lie that the right tools will enable us to live independent from our Creator..." (73)
As an example of how technology changes culture, Dyer looks at music. Once it was live musicians, many people producing and many people sharing in the listening. With the advent of the battery operated Walkman in 1979, music became an individual experience available anywhere.
The views regarding technology can be stated in two extremes: technology is a tool, neither good nor evil (often the view expressed about guns), or, technology is a driving force in our culture, irrespective of human use ("The Internet has made my life..."). Dyer takes a middle ground. "People are culpable for their choices, but technology still plays a role in influencing the decisions they make." (86)
Where we worship has been influenced by the invention of automobiles. How we worship has been influenced by the invention of sound systems, allowing large congregations.
From Babel: "Technology does not make people do anything, but it does alter the choices people have in front of them." (107)
From the ten commandment tablets: God used cutting edge technology of the day. He does not have a "wait-and-see policy." "...[I]nstead God is always working through the tools of the day as he accomplishes his redemptive program." (112)
He notes that, "...every good technology comes with a trade-off of some kind." (133)
From creation, our ability to make technology is a reflection of our Creator. From the fall we learn that every technology can be used for sin and rebellion. We also learn that technology can be used for redemptive purposes. In the end God will restore all things, including technology.
We have the opportunity to worship God whenever we use tools and they work well. We can thank God for the creativity He has given man. But we must also realize the redemptive capacities for technology are limited. At the same time we see great evil conducted through technology
There are those who think all our problems, now and in the future, will be solved by technology. Some argue this has become a kind of unspoken religion.
We have information access, all kinds of knowledge at our fingertips. But there is a downside: porn is now abundantly available, we have information overload, almost anyone can publish almost anything, we scan instead of read, and we are constantly interrupted. Much of the Christian life "requires the ability to concentrate and focus on ideas over long periods of time." (165) We have to work against the distractions, the chaos, the complications technology has brought us.
We are living in the time between the Garden of Eden and the City of God. We could try to avoid technology or we could use technology as much and as often as we can. Either extreme, Dyer says, is failing to live faithfully with what we have been given. (176)
To faithfully use technology, Dyer suggests five steps: valuation, experimentation, limitation, togetherness, and cultivation. (176-179)
Dyer's style of writing here is that of textbook quality. He spends much time on the philosophical implications of technology the layman may find distracting. The parent who wants an easy answer to their child and the internet will not find it here. This book is better for the church leader who wants to understand the theological implications of technology.
I appreciated Dyer's conclusions. I write this review on my laptop while listening to music on an MP3 player and I'll post this on the Internet. I trust all of it is to the glory of God.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
I started skimming this book to determine if I would:
1. Enjoy it at all
2. Want to read it more thoroughly
Both became a quick reality. Dyer had me with the opening chapter on Perspective. I am one (was one?) who falls into Douglas Adams' third category of those who view technology: "anything that gets invented after you're thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it's been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really." (Dyer, page 26). I really do use a lot of modern technology. I just don't often care for the way it gets used by all those "young folk."
Dyer goes on, once he's helped the reader gain some healthy perspective, to lay out how he'll help us look at technology. He uses four "Rs," which is helpful in remembering each category:
Reflection: How does technology change the way we reflect God's image?
Rebellion: How does the Fall open today's Christians to potential evils of technology?
Redemption: How can technology be used to redeem the world for Christ?
Restoration: How does technology fit into God's plan to restore the earth?
There's also a great blog tour of this book going on, chapter by chapter, week by week, by a variety of writers over at ChurhM.ag. Check it out. It's very helpful (I only wish I'd known about this earlier; maybe I could have gotten in on it).
This book has been eye-opening, thought-provoking, and convicting. I look forward to sharing it with you.
Oh, by the way, I highly recommend it. Five out of five stars!
Book Review: From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology by John Dyer
The author reveals the origin and history of technology from a biblical point of view. His work will help ground you in your theology of technology so that you can lead others through the same exercise to strengthen their lives so they will know why they are to use it. He clearly points out that technology is not neutral and that believers need to think through and understand the power of technology to bless or curse their lives. This book is John's effort to help us "understand how we can fulfill our role as God's image-bearers in a world very far removed from the garden". He has sought to "dismantle the concept of technology, examine it carefully, and then put it back to together again" while retelling the story of technology in a way that honors the Lord and "the reason He put us here on earth". He will help you understand how mankind has used technology to shape the world and how it can "in turn shape us". I believe John has successfully fulfilled his purpose for the book. I have marked it pages with my highlighter and pen along with posted notes for quick reference in the future. I highly suggest you do the same to help prepare yourself and others to deal properly with the power of technology.