Archives For From the Garden to the City

This is Part 11 of my chapter-by-chapter blog of From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology by John Dyer. (Thankfully for you, it’s also my last.)

The subject of technology and how it relates to the Church certainly isn’t new, and there are a ton of different books and blogs and so on out there that have their own spin on it. The reason for that, I think, is because technology is a moving target. It’s constantly changing, and therefore how we think about it, how we approach it, and ultimately how we use it changes as well.

Technology, we said, is “the human activity of using tools to transform God’s creation for practical purposes.” It’s a means to an end, a bridge from one world to a better one, allowing us to overcome some sort of problem to accomplish a goal we couldn’t have on our own. Defining it further, we broke it down into four separate layers: technology as hardware, technology as manufacturing, technology as methodology, and technology as social usage. The first two layers, we concluded, are inherently neutral; a shovel is just a shovel. However, the knowledge used to create those tools and how the tools are used are most definitely not neutral; how we approach those various tools is determined by our own internal values but also has the ability to reshape those values over time.

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This is Part 10 of my chapter-by-chapter blog of From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology by John Dyer.

In Chapter 9, we talked about the idea of restoration, how God will one day restore mankind to its original sinless condition. The book of Revelation foretells the end of the world but it also presents us with a picture of a new city in heaven, one that is eternal and free of the defects of our existing man-made versions.

That restoration will happen at some point, but what happens until then? If technology is “the human activity of using tools to transform God’s creation for practical purposes”, what happens when it fails? What happens when the transformation brought about by human activity is not exactly the kind of transformation we were hoping for? In Chapter 9, we said that every technology has a trade-off of some kind, an opportunity cost. What happens when those costs spiral out of control?

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As you probably know by now, I’ve been blogging my way through John Dyer’s From the Garden to the City, a book about the redeeming and corrupting powers of technology and how that impacts the Christian Church. Of course, when we talk about technology in that context, we tend to assume that means the Internet and social networking, but other than the physical mediums of our modern-day telecommunications, we tend to forget that none of that is really new. In fact, the social media of today bears a striking resemblance to the social networks of 16th century Europe, which allowed Martin Luther’s charges against the Catholic Church to spread like wildfire.

From the moment in October 1517 when Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, his anti-Catholic protests began spreading at a rate that even took Luther by surprise. The Economist takes a look at why this happened and finds that just like with the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement of today, technology was at the heart of it:

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This is Part 9 of my chapter-by-chapter analysis of From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology by John Dyer.

By now we’ve seen numerous examples both the redeeming and corrupting potential of technology and how that relates to us as Christians. We’ve seen how God first commanded us to “cultivate” His creation in the Garden of Eden and how even after Adam and Eve sinned and were expelled from the Garden, God continued to use technology to further His plans, from Noah’s Ark to the Ten Commandment to the Ark of the Covenant. And yet, there’s no question technology can be extremely destructive, allowing mankind to separate ourselves from our Creator as an act of rebellion.

So it’s not just redemption we need, it’s restoration. We don’t just need another coat of paint to cover up the flaws and defects of this city we’ve built, it needs to be demolished and replaced with a whole new one that’s perfect.

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