Monday, October 13, 2008

Spiritual Formation, Digitized...?

OK, I admit I not sure I really get it, and I'm asking for help: how do you see digital technologies being powerful tools in the development of a new generation of Christ followers and Christ communities? Will virtual communities begin to replace traditional face-to-face gatherings, or enhance them? How might we use these technologies to disciple Christ followers or serve the poor? What might we gain when we no longer "open your Bibles to John 4:such-and-such" but instead have our faces lit by the glow of tiny individual screens on which the words appear? Are there any downsides to the increasing digitizing of more and more of life, and if so, how would you suggest Christ followers might guard against them? And Joseph, could you post a cool picture for this conversation?


John M. said...

I'm bummed that the last thread died. I was looking forward to a synthesis that we could agree on and move the discussion forward. Oh well...

I apologze if all my ecclesiological stuff shut us down.

This kind of comes out of the blue. Is someone proposing that we form digital communities?
Does it have any connection to the last thread? Can you give us some context Brian?

Brian Emmet said...

Sheesh, Jose, I asked for a cool picture! Oh, well...

John, the last thread seemed to have condensed into a conversation among just 3 or 4 of us; alot of the younger participants tend to shy away if they haven't gotten in before comment #35, and also feel that the discussion level gets a bit too heady. So I thought we'd try a topic that perhaps plays to some things they know better than we do. We'll see...

Your bummed-ness illustrates one aspect of digital technology that's worth talking about: no matter how much we say "Please keep commetning on prior posts," the discussion ALWAYS moves to the new, the topic "on top" as it were. Many observers and researchers are pointing out the ways in which digitial technology tends to shorten attention spans--is this a good thing, a bad thing, or simply a new thing?

smokin joe said...

I tried to find a cartoon of Luther blogging but could not, all I found was a Youtube cartoon of Luther has a gangsta rapper.

I think digital technology just speeds up our ability to communicate and to connect: we still have the choice to get face-to-face, to be transparent and vulnerable -- or not.

Digital communications can give a 'false sense' of connection, but I must point out that conferences can do the same thing (as do weekly Sunday morning mtgs.). We can go to weekly meetings and still hide.

Travis said...

Hey...I posted on the previous thread. Let me know what you think.

Brian Emmet said...

Yes, there is still something yeasty and percolative going on in the previous post...

John M. said...

Brian, thanks for the explaination. I have noticed, too, that when a new post goes up that discussion always shifts there.

But just in case, I checked the "theses" thread first and was pleasntly surprised to find that others wanted to continue there also.

"Yeasty and percolative". I like that, Brian.

smokin joe said...

ok, here is my take on the digital question.

Have any of you seen a book called "Future Worship" by Lamar Boshman? Rex Miller was the ghost writer for the book.

He basically traces the changes of technology over the millennia from the oral culture (the eucharist) to the print culture (the exposition of the word) to the electronic culture (the platform and the music/worship team) to the digital culture.

We have all been trained in the electronic church .... sound system, overhead projector, music/worship team on the platform. The end result is a choreographed worship centered on the platform.

Boshman (miller) aruges that the digital church will result in Jesus being manifest in "the midst" of his people... the "byte" is the fully commited follower of Christ, gathering whenever and whereever with other believers.

There is a lot more to the book...but so far, I think he is right.

William said...

Virtual communities.

I am not sure if any of you have heard of Second life.

check out those links. It is growing at a ridiculously fast rate. People create their own virtual person and live "life" through the web. It seems to be where things are headed. Many big corporations are investing and advertising in this Second Life thing.

Personally, I like the face-to-face better. But many are in the digital communities. That is what World of Warcraft and many other successful internet games are based on.

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph, my observation is that we all tend to suffer from 'presentism', the belief that what is 'now' is both superior to the past and the apex of human development. So it's not surprising that as Boschman/Miller looks at the world, lo and behold, digital technology will 'result in Jesus being manifest 'in the midst of his people', with the implication that this has not really been able to happen before the advent of digital technology.

William, I had heard about 'second life', and will try to pay them a visit. Do you see this as a good thing, a bad thing or just a thing?

smokin joe said...

hey Brian, in my haste and desire to be brief, I undoubtedly did a poor job of summarizing the book. I do not think the author falls in to presentism ... he develops his argument about the way changes in technology influences forms of worship very carefully, and he gives attention to both the downsides as well as the benefits that come from new technologies ...

He points out that there will be unintended negative consequences from the adoption of digital styles of worship. His basic point is that the 'center' of the worship moves from the eucharist to the pulpit to the platform.... and then OFF of the platform.

I think he has a good point. IF this is a subject that interests you, you should read the book. I can bring my copy to you in Columbus if you like. Bottom line: we don't get to vote on whether to particpate in the digital revolution any more than my parents got to vote on whether to use an overhead instead of a song book. They just got increasingly out of touch.

Will: my son is a regular participant in the WoW community (as is most of our Tuesday night group). From what he tells me, it is a huge community of very discouraged people who have checked out of life and need hope.

Brian Emmet said...

While we don't get to vote on whether the digital revolution happens, we do need to decide how to participate. You no doubt know families who do not have televisions in their homes--they have made a decision about not using a technology because of the impact it has on the life of their family. Does this decision relegate them to the sidelines of what God is doing?

William said...

Brain- In answer to your first question, I will have to say that if it is used in moderation, then it can be a good thing. When people start living their lives through Second Life, it is not good. That will undoubtedly happen.

It is a tool to make connections with people though. What makes it unique is that the connections you make in Second Life are supposed to be carried out in everyday life, i.e., job searches, buying and selling things.

We cannot take ourselves out of technology, or we will find ourselves as relevant and influential for the Kingdom as the Amish. But too much exposure is not good.

smokin joe said...

no, Brian, there is nothing wrong with opting out of having a TV. However, such a person would NOT be able to contribute or participate redemptively in Jeff Rohrs weekly "American Idol" group.

Let me ask you a question: does your church use an overhead projector? or hymnals? Do you use folding chairs? or pews? and finally, do you use a sound amplification system that can accommodate electrical instruments?

Because for a moment there, I thought you might be going Amish on us ... so if you answer "yes" to all my questions, why are you drawing the line arbitrarily at digital technology but not "electronic" tech?

My parent's church decided 30 years ago to stick with hymnals and pews and a piano. The price, however, is that there is hardly a handful of people in their church of 90 attenders that is under the age of 65. The only ones that can get away with resisting change like that are the RCC and EO.

We are talking about a missional approach to connecting with a younger generation that has already adapted to all of these digital technologies... are you saying that you think you can reach them without using these technologies? Are you saying that we can restrain the effects of cultural change emanating from digital technology ?

COME ON! I'll take you on! lets get it ON and arm wrestle dude!!!!

smokin joe said...

your missing the point Brian ... and completely mischaracterizing the book.

Brian Emmet said...

I'm not really responding to the book, Joseph. I don't claim to have read it. I'm also not against technology. Our church has both hymnbooks and a projection system, and we rarely use the hymnbooks. I drive a car, have a cell phone and yes, even use a computer.

My point--and I'm far from the only one making the point--is that we need to be far more prayerful and reflective about the technology we allow into our lives, because once we allow it in, it (the technology) will do everything it is designed to do. We very quickly become tools of our technology. I honestly have mixed feelings about having a projector in our sanctuary--if such questions make me stupid or not with it, OK.

Can we learn anything from history about technology and its effects? Has every technological advance been an advance...or is every "advance" a very mixed bag? And if it's a mixed bag, why not face it and deal with it more thoughtfully than just "Here it is! Nothing we can do about it!"

William, I wonder how ineffective the Amish really are? Are we ready to write them off as "Poorly done, bad and unfaithful servants"?

Bruce said...

I pretty much gave up on carrying around a guitar and singing in the living room with friends because I had the idea that recorded/broadcast music, with the variety of tastes that it brings to people, made personal music passe/boring.

After observing a few contexts of music and living rooms lately, I now think that anyone who does any kind of music live and in the living room is a hit. It's the personal touch, not the technology that makes the difference. Cause it's real.

I think the same thing (mutatis mutandis) is true about preaching and bible knowledge and spiritual formation and pastoring--or more simply, sharing the life of Christ together with other people. Bringing your gift, and helping people to know Jesus better, in the living room, is real.

About all the ecclesiastical conversations: the Jesus-in-us-in-the-living room is the real part. The ongoing church life is the necessary shell. The shell can help or hurt the stuff inside, but the stuff inside is the important part.

John M. said...

"About all the ecclesiastical conversations: the Jesus-in-us-in-the-living room is the real part. The ongoing church life is the necessary shell. The shell can help or hurt the stuff inside, but the stuff inside is the important part."

Amen Bruce!

William said...

Brian- I am hesitant to write anyone off as an unfaithful servant, unless it is very clear. Even then, though, I am not so sure it is my job.
However, I can look at the Amish community and realize that their interpretation of "being in the world and not of the world" has actually taken them out of the world and put them in their own little world, which is breeched only through tourism, as far as I know.

I am also hesitant to subject myself to anything that is filled with images. I do enough to keep myself able to relate to the people I am with and in relationships with, but anytime that I catch myself opening the windows to my soul purely for my own satisfaction, I try to cut back. Everything is permissable, but not everything is beneficial. Everything in moderation?

Brian Emmet said...

William, I guess my point about the Amish was that, for all the ways that we tend to identify them as folk who are totally "out of it" culturally, they keep showing up as a reference point. Perhaps something like a monastery, they call into question our assumptions about "the way things are" or the way things have to be, or are supposed to be. At the very least, I have to admire their "durability"!

The Amish are not anti-technology. Instead, they have determined to be thoughtful and prayerful about whether and how to admit a technology into their communities; one of the key questions is, "How will this effect our community?"

I'm not Amish; I share some of the critiques I expect many of us would make of their approach to faithfulness. I just find myself wondering if my motives for my critique are as pure as I fancy!

smokin joe said...

it seems to me that we have slid off of the topic of spiritual formation into the topic of arguing about the benefits (or lack thereof) of technology.

The point in the previous discussions was that there is a lack of fundamental spiritual formation among Christians. If we agree to disagree about using technology, that still leaves us with the issue of spiritual formation.

steve H said...

There is a connection between the Amish and spiritual formation, however. Although they may overemphasize the community to the detriment of the individual, at least they do emphasize community -- whereas most Protestants don't.

Spiritual formation for them has much to do with learning the distinctive values and way of life which they believe God has called them to live within and as a visible people of God on earth.

That also should be part of our spiritual formation: as followers of "The Way" we should be learning to live "the way of the Lord" which is a communal way of life. Spirituality separated from how one lives life is not true spirituality.

Brian Emmet said...

OK, then, back on track: how does spiritual formation look or work differently in a digitized age? How can the technologies help us "do" spiritual formation more effectively?

smokin joe said...

I'm not going to get drawn back into the technology discussion ... technology is just a tool for communication (for good or evil) and it cannot help with spiritual formation, although it might help with evangelism.

The only thing that helps with spiritual formation is the cross of Jesus Christ ... and possibly on a second level, some spiritual disciplins such as serving, giving, solitude, silence, study of the scriptures and prayer.

I wonder if anyone has experienced any "spiritual formation" through participation in this blog?

Steve: I think very highly of the amabaptists, especially Mennonites.

Patrick said...

dude, ya'll's conversation is killer good. It's a bummer I missed all the good talk about the consequences of technology. now you guys are getting back into the rote spiritual formation stuff again....come on! j/k

Technology is useful in building relationships with people, which is the cornerstone of spiritual formation. In connecting with folks younger than me, say the 17/18 yr olds and down, I've found it very beneficial to actually engage them first in text messaging, myspace, facebook or online RPGs. They are sooo open online, but in person they're not. When I taught middle school, the relationships I had with the kids changed dynamically when we became "friends" on myspace. That increased exponentially when we commented on things back and forth.

As an end, it would fall short. But this online interaction opens the door for deep face to face communication. Sometimes it is the door into their hearts. Sometimes it just is the road to the door of the hearts.

on another note, I don't like the center-stage-focused, performance worship style of today's typical Americanized church. I think technology has become a substitute for spiritual giftings.

smokin joe said...

Patrick: THANK YOU!!!

I went into Johnthemusician's room to tell him about your post and ask him if he had an opinion to contribute, but he was in the middle of a World of Warcraft "raid" ... he said he would check in later.

By-the-way, Brian, before you repeat that we should be discerning and prayerful about accepting new technology...and that it can have negative downsides ... I totally agree with you ....

JOOOHHHNNNNN.... get OFF that damn computer!!!

PS: Patrick, Spiritual formation is NEVER routine (or rote) ... it is more like a wild roller coaster ride...

Bruce said...

And again on music in worship in church--it's a microcosm of the life of worship and spiritual gifting and fellowship.

I'm of the opinion that if you can't play some music with a guitar or piano with one's wife and children in the living room,--or with the guys at a Saturday morning men's meeting-- then it's just deficient. When I hear new music I always wonder, just reflectively, did this pass the living room praying-with-your-wife test?

If not, it's off my radar. Maybe it glorifies God, but I'm not down with it.

Electric guitars with distortion can pass the LR/PWYW test. And by my experience, so can karaoke worship music with microphones and loud music systems in my house. As a matter of fact, all those extras make things kinda cool sometimes. But the gold standard for me is the stripped down version of some instrument with us and Jesus. If it works there, then we can add stuff onto it, some, maybe. And if it won't sustain private worship, or couples worship, or men's meeting worship, then I wonder just how much the Holy Spirit can really be involved in what we're doing.

smokin joe said...

Bruce: I am personally of the opinion that most worship should be without music ... I think music has taken too large of a role in modern worship -- probably reflecting our 60s culture.

By-the-way, here is an interesting article on the rapid demographic growth of the Amish since 1960, in the

Surging Amish Spreading Out
As Population Explodes, Some Families Are On the Move
Oct. 11, By Daniel Burke


Bruce said...

Joe, do you mean that most of the Christian life and teaching and spiritual instruction should be without high tech?

I was talking about music as a grid for seeing everything else we're talking about here.

So if music is all about entertaining folks, we'd be thinking that the Christian life is about entertaining folks. If music is about touching the throne of God, then the standard for the Christian life if touching the throne of God.

I wasn't just trying to share my personal tastes.

Bruce said...

And the point I was getting at:

if worship music can only be done in church, then the Christian life is only something for church.

John the Musician said...

Wanted to pop in and mention the biggest upside/downside of digital communication from my point of view. Seems to me like the biggest upside is that it's extremely hard to maintain a pure heart when on the internet. The internet is like this gigantic wall between you and anyone that might want to check or balance you. Sitting behind a computer you can safely say things, do things, look at things, that you would never actually do with other people or around them.

The reason this is the upside? It forces any one in "The Walk" to work harder and dig deeper to find the disease of sin in their life. Don't get me wrong I think it's quite doable with out digital technology as well, but the non-personal communication is something like a flower bed missing the flowers so all you see is the weeds.

The biggest downside that I've seen in this modern day technology is that there really are no checks and balances. The only thing standing between you and sin is ... well it's you. I don't know about you guys but the doesn't seem nearly adequate for todays modern challenges.

Anywho, I think if you have a reliable support network (i.e. friends in the "field" with you) the modern day digital frontier can be an amazing training grounds for anyone seeking congruency.

I also wanted to note that yes most people the I know online are very much like the lost sheep we constantly encounter from day to day, but also there are a few healthy individuals have an opportunity to make a huge impact on others. I only wish I was a bit more healthy =O)

Brian Emmet said...

John, you wrote "the modern day digital frontier can be an amazing training grounds for anyone seeking congruency." I didn't follow, I guess because I'm not sure what you mean by 'seeking congruency'. If you have a chance, could you unpack that a bit for me? Thanks!

smokin joe said...

Bruce: regarding music... I think it is a bit like technology ... it has its benefits and uses but I do not see it as equivalent to worship. There is really not much in the N.T. about music ... just a couple of minor references. Once has to go back to the Psalms find much of a spiritual perspective on music.

In my opinion, worship is best defined by the passage in Romans 12 about making our bodies a living sacrifice to God as our reasonable service of worship. I personally like acoustic music ... but that is my personal preference. I don't see one kind of music has any more spiritual than another.

In some of our gatherings, we have learned how to invite God's presence through prayer without music in order to keep it simple for unchurched people who don't know the songs.

I don't know if that answers your question.

david said...

along the lines of what joe said about worship - i too find that when i hear many talk about "great" worship, they mean that the worship contained music and lyrics to their liking. i think all too often worship is only seen in context of music and not a life lived in praise of the One who made us.

John Norton said...

New guy jumping in...

In my life, the dark side of digital technology is the consuming nature of the beast.

On the positive side, like Patrick, I establish swift connections with my students when I text them or engage them on Facebook. This may in fact be where the seeds of a new Christ community are sown.

Bruce said...

Welcome John.

About the music in church worship. I didn't ask any questions to be answered--at least questions for me anyway. My point is just about the same as Smokin' Joe's, which is that it's gotta be real to be any good. My living room example is the acid test for being real.

Now, after some time has passed, I'm willing to concede that some big venue services can be authentic and even irreplaceable. Like giant cathedrals or conferences in stadiums. And also that living rooms and small churches with no instruments can be venues for ego-driven singers.

My burden is just that music would actually serve the worship and teaching responsibilities that it carries by its function.

About music, I would ask the same question as about anything resembling outreach or teaching: does it honor God (up) and bring us closer to God in spirit and understanding (sideways)? Preaching, patios, festivals, four laws at the pub, and cathedrals--all can run under that rule of thumb.

smokin joe said...

hi John, welcome. Agreed... I think that was part of the point John the Musician was making. Digital technology can confuse reality with virtuality ...

I was a TA last summer and I had the same experience with my students ... they responded quickly to interacting with me via facebook and IM or txting.

John M. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John M. said...

Eclectic post:
On Worship/music etc.
I'm weary of "worship wars"...have found myself blindsided too many times when well meaning believers questioned my well-meaning attempts at authentic worship.

Most of the wars I have been caught in were over the style or volume of music, not whether music was used or not. I probably would have started another war, had I just eliminated the music altogether (speaking of larger, corporate worship gatherings). But I have beome a pacifist in this war, so I refue to enter that debate.

Joseph and Bruce, I think that the principles that can be drawn from your discussion covers the issue -- if we can just accept them and apply them to our own personal and corporate ,whether in solitude, with two or three in a living room or in a Cathedral. Bottom line, a worshipper worships -- indoors, outdoors, in solitude, in a crowd, at a rock concert, with Chris Tomlin,
electric or unplugged, accapella, with instruments, voiced or silent.

Regarding technology: God give us wisdom...incredible power for good or ill...incredible leveler and democracizer... incredible catylist for creativity... enabler of alternate commnication... alternate economies... alternate identities etc.

Biggest upside... the above. Biggest downside... the above. Can it be used to maintain, create and develop relationships? Yes. Can it be helpful with evangeism and spiritual formation? Yes. Can it be used insincerely and to hide from accountablility? Of course, and so can it be in face-to-face. You can bring someone to spiritual formation, but you cannot make them be formed; only they can do that.

Personally I agree with JtM and john norton (welcome john) that technology, can be all-consuming and addictive. JtM pointed out that the internet can quickly reveal one's character. If character is "what you do when no one is looking", then, JtM, you are absolutely right.

Not only have I wasted a lot of hours on-line, I have also spent more sinful hours than I want to think about.

The fruit? I have discovered a black hole in my soul that had "hidden" for years. The easy, anonymous availabilty of very attractive "destructive garbage" on-line, revealed the hole, its size and depth very quickly.

The result. I have found: transperancy and accountablility with brothers at a deeper level, and much deep heaing with issues that go back to child-hood and that had been "hidden" and undealt with while I grappled with trying to control symptoms. I have become accutely aware of my own sin, weakness and tendency toward disloyalty and deception, when "on my own". The phrase, "Lead us not into temptation; deliver us from evil", has become bold type in my daily prayers.

Brain, I think you're asking important questions about the potentially detrimental effets of technology. It's so systemic and we're all so dependent on it, I have no idea where one would begin in trying to answer your questions or change our societal behaviors.

OK I said this was "eclectic". I end with wisdom from the sports page of our local newspaper... a quote from a review of a new book by Rick Pitino (the Univ. of KY former ntl. champion basketball coach):

"The key to achieving greatness is not so much what you accomplish, but what others accomplish with your assistance."

Bruce said...

John M. Kudos, Yes, and Amen. Thanks for summarizing.

About technologies with spiritual development:
Faceless, voiceless, bodiless technologies select out the Gnostic tendencies, which by doctrine selects out the faceless, the voiceless and the bodiless.

People think they are meeting the spirits of the other, and project the rest from their imagination. Hence porn, hence affairs, hence impulse shopping. Hence Chrisitan commitments that has repentence in the real world screened out by design.

John M. said...

True. Thanks Bruce.

Brian Emmet said...

Just when I thought the discussion was about to peter out...

Welcome John and David; c'mon back, John the M Sarah, Travis, William, and Patrick... uh, John M, just a little bit shorter, if you can? It's all good, but sometimes a bit like trying to get a drink from a fire hose!

My take on digital technology has to do with what I see as the deeply gnostic aspects of it. Doesn't mean we can't/shouldn't use it, only that we have to be more careful than I think many people are. Technology really does change us--it's not a "neutral," merely "external" thing. You might have run across a recent cover story in The Atlantic Monthly, "Is GOOGLE making us stupid?"

smokin joe said...

you are probably right Brian. By-the-way, we are up to 41 comments ... I wonder if we should ask the gang if they have any suggestions about the next discussion?

I'll txt Pat, Will, JtM, Travis and Sarah and let them know that you are calling for them.

Travis said...

I feel like we need to stay on the subject of the theses, but I don't know where the conversation needs to go.

Bruce said...

How about, so what if computer/etc technology is skewed toward the gnostic? So what? Isn't some of the best of what we know in Christ right there, in the pocket, bullseye, of the gnostic way of experiencing God?

I asked the question in as provocative a way as I could. Praying for little miracles and hearing from God and spiritual growth thru emails all seem a lot alike to me. And they all seem dangerous, too close to anti-Christian gnosticism for comfort.

So can we pursue this line of thought? Being, "so what if digital communities ARE gnostic?"

Rex Miller said...

I know this is late in the discussion. Another way to look at the significance of digital technology is through a Marshall McLuhan "medium as massage" (I know it should be message) lens.

Any medium (tool/technology) alters our perceptions, not just understandings but mindsets.

The written word is not the original medium of either the gospel or initial revelation. The concepts of a literate (print) mind would be foreign to an oral mind.

We readily embrace the power and impact that Gutenburg's invention had for the Reformation and Western civilization. We need to consider how that shift changed perception and our understanding of time, space, relationships, truth, leadership, art etc. It created what we call the modern worldview; rational, linear, reductionist, categorical, hierarchical, sequential etc.

Digital technology creates a different mind in the same way that print created a different mind from oral culture. The neuro-pathways are actually wired differently. We have a different sense for the passage of time, the number and location of relationships, leadership etc.

The digital mind is a multi-sensory multi-modal brain. It can handle complexity far better than the print sequential brain - as one example.

The question is not how to better use digital technology but what kind of thinking, structure and communication works best within this medium.

Here is our challenge as what looks like mostly boomers on this string. We are digital immigrants. We need to gain digital fluency - and digital fluency will answer the "I don't get it question."

Buckminister Fuller provided a good prescription for developing this new way to think:

“If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother to teach them. Instead give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.”

smokin joe said...

Thanks Rex. By-the-way, Rex is a friend of mine and Ed Chinn’s and used to be member of the Dallas Covenant Church if I am not mistaken. He is also the author of the book “Millennial Matrix” and was a ghost writer for LaMar Boshman’s book called “Future Worship” (the one I was referring to earlier).

Another book that says many of the same things but from a more secular perspective is Thomas Friedman’s “The World is Flat.” I think it is very difficult for us time travelers form the 1950s and 60s to get our minds around the massive changes in culture and human thinking that are taking place at light speed all around us. And, although I appreciate and even agree with Brian's concern about the negative downsides of new technology, I don’t think I am engaging in “presentism” here (damn! There I go… I said I was not going to revisit this topic, didn’t I? I’ll blame it on Rex).

The invention of the printing press went hand-in-hand with the Reformation and the rise of the modern world … and it did change the way people think and process information. Before the printing press, spiritual formation mostly involved a set of spiritual disciplines, the liturgy and life in community or in solitude…often with a spiritual director. After the printing press … spiritual formation became more professionalized and focused on academic study.

It is not presentism to suggest that we may be facing a very dark and dismal future with technological change. After all, technology brought us the holocaust and nuclear war. However, my point is that as a missional follower of Christ with some experience with cross-cultural adaptation, I feel compelled to study the cultural and social changes that are attending the technological changes in order to be able to communicate adequately with those whose brains are being formed by digital technology.

The only other options I can conceive of are to stick our heads in the sand and ignore it, withdraw from society like the Amish and focus on our own little cultural islands, or try to screen out undesirable technology like the Spanish inquisition attempted to do by banning books on the Index of Errors in the 16th through the 19th centuries, and China is attempting to do with the internet now.

A better option, in my opinion, is to reach the hearts of those who are being formed by the technology, and to attempt to lead them to the cross of Christ … where hopefully they will surrender their own will, and perspectives to Christ and become true disciples in digitalandia … agents of the divine conspiracy in deep cover.

What else can be done? At the societal level, digital technology is like pluralism: it just is. We don’t get to vote on it. (John: 464 words).

Patrick said...

I like what you said here:

The invention of the printing press went hand-in-hand with the Reformation and the rise of the modern world. … and it did change the way people think and process information. Before the printing press, spiritual formation mostly involved a set of spiritual disciplines, the liturgy and life in community or in solitude…often with a spiritual director. After the printing press … spiritual formation became more professionalized and focused on academic study.

I was talking with Thomas yesterday about the house church forming here and he said something interesting. I'll do my best to represent what he said, maybe he'll get on and fix it up a bit.

The Bible follows a pattern in the way God related to His people. First, God, then in Jesus, and finally the Holy Spirit was released to them. He was paralleling this pattern with mainstream church history. The Catholic church, and other high churches, represent God as the majestic, all-powerful King. In the reformation, Luther preached Jesus, the forgiveness of sins and knowing Him. I think that has led us into today, what we've known. And with this new technology, communication and information sharing has exploded. This new era, coupled with this, would parallel the last phase, the Holy Spirit.

THOMAS, if you get on and read this, I hope i didn't misrepresent your view too terribly.

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph has contributed to my spiritual formation by reminding me that I must not merely ask questions and then lie in wait to dispute the answers offered, but must also be willing to lay my cards down!

Rex, I'm grateful that you checked in! Many thanks. "Tools change us, change our neural pathways"--does this mean that we use our tools, or that they use us, or something entirely different? The Extropians are eagerly awaiting the day when we can upload our minds into some kind of transglobal supercomputer, and thereby escape the limitations of our bodies. Would you see this as a good use of the tools available to us? I mean the questions sincerely, not as a kind of stalking horse... (btw, there really are Extropians, and they really are looking forward to uploading the content of their minds...)

Joseph, I mentioned "presentism" once, and will not do so again, although I could say...

Patrick, I question the schema of God acting first as Father, then as Son, then as Spirit. Is Jesus, and the Spirit, largely "absent" from, for example, the Old Testament, or is our one-God-in-three-Persons always in action? Or does this miss your point entirely?

William said...

...the building up of the body of Christ;
until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Spiritual formation happens because of relationship. Relationship first and foremost with the Holy Spirit, who helps us "reckon ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ". It is also the relationships that we have in the body of Christ. Since no man can individually walk in the fullness of Christ, it happens as we mature and together grow into the fullness of Christ.

Whatever tools are used to engage people, i.e., technology, then we should master it and know how to use it in a way that would bring us into a "formation-able" relationship with the other person(s).

William said...

The above verse is Ephesians 4:11-16...btw

maybe it sums up spiritual formation, or the goal of it.

smokin joe said...

William: I agree. I think that spiritual formation and technology are basically two different topics for discussion.

Brian: I think it was twice, but I will not press the point. I didn't get peeved until the 2nd time after I had tried unsuccessfully to explain myself.

By the way, did you say that there is some kind of web site called where I can go and back up my brain? Can you send me the link? it might be useful. Do I need a password? I am currently, and paranoidly triple backing up my laptop with all of my history work for the Ph.D.


John M. said...

Rex, welcome and thanks for your post. I helps expand my linear boomer brain. I think you are onto something really important.

I use technology in a surface/external sort of way to enhance and enrich the tasks and discretional time I have. I pick it up. I lay it down. It is a tool.

The under 30's generation lives in the technology. It is their atmosphere. They are part of it. It is an environment.

Brian, do you get to keep your brain contents after uploading it, or does you mind just become a blank vacuum? I like Joseph's brain backup idea. Some of us are going to need it sooner than later. It would be a great "cure" for alzheimer’s.

(Joseph, 121 words.)

smokin joe said...

John: it was 124 words. You forgot to include that last 3.

Brian Emmet said...

The extropians are actually a technologized form of Buddhism--you upload your mind into the "overmind"--your individuality merges with the ALL. At that point, Alzheimer's is a big non-issue.

Bruce said...

No, they aren't two different things. Spiritual formation, when done deliberately, uses A technology. There is a strong intrinsic connection between fasting regularly, daily Bible reading, regular prayer times and meeting with the spiritual guide--on one hand--and doing all these things as written on a shared Google planner, and meeting with one's brothers under the spiritual guide via Facebook or Twitter.

These are all technologies. The first cluster helps to screen out the gnostic tendencies and can potentially elevate the importance of rational thought by engaging God in His Word; the second cluster of technologies excludes (mostly) extended argumentation (also known as rational thought) and privileges soundbites; and makes escape from being watched by brothers and pastors very easy (which is another way of saying the technology facilitates gnosticism).

One technology produces rabbis. Another technology produces entertainers.

The fact that Brian could explain himself twice and it still not get through to us highly motivated and reasonably intelligent men indicates, suggests, a feature of the system. The technology we use screens out necessary subtleties.

smokin joe said...

ok Bruce: so now what are you and Brian going to DO about it? Surely, just criticizing (or grumbling about) the use of technology not all you plan to do is it? How are you personally going to resist the gnosticism of using technology to connect with brothers? (or sisters for that matter). Are you going to stop talking with us in this blog? which, of course, is a digital technology.

Regarding my discussion with Brian...I DID get it the first time... but the second time I felt that he was unfairly applying the label 'presentism' to me and to a book that I was trying to explain and that he had never read. We worked it out by-the-way and we be cool.

By-the-way, I have never been able to interest my 'brothers', with whom I have shared some degree of accountability and co-working, in the the possibilities of enhancing (and increasing) our communications through digital technology other than an occasional email or a rare phone call ... so our relationships have basically over the years begun to revolve around one or two face-to-face 'conference' encounters a year ... which is also insufficient for spiritual formation, and probably even more 'gnostic' than talking daily on a blog.

So... despite the fact that I am fairly own spiritual formation and accountability has become increasingly focused on local friendships ... within driving distance. my friends and I (an adjunct prof. and a grad student) usually get together face-to-face once a week over cigars, but we often confirm the time and place through texting. I don't see anything Gnostic about that ... in my opinion, looking to long-distance, translocal relationships that only have face-to-face encounters once or twice a year in a choreographed conference format is MUCH more Gnostic....I might add that the same thing can be true of seeing people once a week in a church service, if there is no real sharing of life or fellowship outside the mtg.

....and now, I am starting to get bored with this conversation ... I think we are beginning to beat a dead, ethereal, disembodied virtual horse. Time to go back to my annotated bibliography of the Enlightenment in 18th century Spanish America...

by-the-way, are any of you guys on facebook?

Brian Emmet said...

One thing I could do, that might kill two birds with one stone, would be to ask a tech-savvy younger person if s'he could teach me how to do some basic things like set up a facebook or myspace aqccount, or texting... I will also see if there couldn't be some ways we could have some sort of "tech track" at the times when we do meet. Another thing I propose to do is to continue engaging in these kinds of discussion, where and with whom there is interest, because I think it is important to be thoughtful about how we use technology, and how it uses us, and yes, I include telphones and cars and other tools in that kind of discussion.

smokin joe said...

I agree with you, Brian, about the importance of being thoughtful and prayerful about using technology. Where I get uncomfortable is when we sound like we are condemning the use of new technologies -- in a blog no less.

Your ideas sound like good ones.

In order to be thoughtful and prayerful about how we use new technologies, it is important to understand how the new technologies will change the way we think and the way we process information ... this is where I found Friedman and Boschman's books helpful.

Of all the new technologies for networking and conencting. I am finding facebook the most helpful. It was through Facebook that C.H. contacted me ... and I just sent a "friend request" to John Norton. I am hoping to introduce him to a couple of young friends of mine who are on similar tracks.

by-the-way, sorry bruce if I came off impatient or sarcastic in the previous comment. I strongly believe in reading of scripture, prayer, the spiritual disciplines and meeting face-to-face with accountability partners. Those are classic disciplins that will never be displaced by new technologies (although I am eagerly anticipating the invention of the Star Trek teleporter technology -- it will save me a lot of time).

John the Musician said...

Alright Brian, first go to then click on the [create account] button, and you're done creating a facebook account. =OP

Just jk, however I'd like to strongly agree with my pops on spiritual formation happening face to face. That is of course if I am correct in my assumptions about what he is saying. Although I am 23 and highly involved in the technological age that is uppon us I've never really used digital technology as a tool to develop my relational spiritual formation. i.e. although sometimes forced to continue relationships through technology because of distance or some such, I always prefer face to face relational interaction with my close friends.

Another point which might be an interesting discussion is that the holy spirit doesn't tend to show up when two or three are gathered online. However he seems more than happy to pop in when two or three get together at the bar.

So maybe we need to take into account the fact that although the holy spirit can use technology to coordinate, plan, and otherwise connect people, he doesn't seem willing to make the online world an actual meeting ground for those he's working in. Or at least I personally haven't experienced the holy spirit in a strong way online.

John M. said...

John the Musician. I look forward to having some face-to-face with you in Columbus this weekend. We need to make another trip to Sitck and Stein's soon. That was a great evening with you and your "pops". No way to duplicate that in cyber space. Some things can only take place face-to-face. There is no such thing as virtal beer...

I like your comment, especially your last pragraph. For me the little bit of digital technology I use, primarily email and this blog, has definitel enhanced my long-distance relationships.

The best benefits for me are that when we get to see one another we are already "current" and have a stream of conversation flowing, which eleminates the need for a lot of catching up. We are able to pick up where we've been on-line and engage the conversation and face-to-face.

Joseph, I do have a facebook account, established this summer at your encouragement. I need to repent, though, because I have not visited it in months. I did accept several friends just a few minutes ago, one of them being Brian Emmet.

smokin joe said...

you guys have facebook and you didn't seek me out! wow .. I don't know what to think.

Brian Emmet said...

Geez, Joseph, I talk with you practically every day here, and now I'm supposed to "seek you out" on facebook, too? ;~)

Do you think one of the reasons Paul P doesn't engage any of this is the impact it would make on his prayer life (and time)?

smokin joe said...

good one Brian!

steve H said...

Oh, now I know why I have been slow on technology. Like Paul, I'm so holy. (yeah, right)

John M. said...

Time is definitely a factor. I check news headlines, my email, this blog and Soct McKnight's blog, and that takes way more time than my wife thinks I should!

Seriously, though, it's about all the reading I do during the week (including the scriptures, except what I do for or in class). It takes most of my weekday discretional time.

So, I have a certain resistance, knowing my addictive nature to cross new boundaries beause I might end up being even more sleep deprived.