Tuesday, November 22, 2011

highlights, from the garden to the city

I am enjoying From the Garden to the City, by John Dyer, which is a readable, yet thoughtful, biblical theology of technology.  Here are some quotes...


“One of the most dangerous things you can believe in this world is that technology is neutral.”


"When technology has distracted us to the point that we no longer examine it, it gains the greatest opportunity to enslave us." 


“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.” (quoting John Culkin)

"...a simple, encompassing definition of technology: 'the human activity of using tools to transform God’s creation for practical purposes.'"


"Technology, then, is the means by which we transform the world as it is into the world that we desire. What we often fail to notice is that it is not only the world that gets transformed by technology. We, too, are transformed."


"In this sense, technology sits between us and the world, changing and molding both at once. The world feels the spade, but we feel the handle. We use the tool to dig at the ground, but in another sense the ground uses the tool to chafe at our hands."
 
"The shovel connects us to the earth, but it also functions to insulate us from directly touching the soil. Our primary connection then is with the tool, not the creation itself, giving the tool the opportunity to simultaneously shape both the world and its user."


"In some sense, all of our technology can be understood as an attempt to overcome the effects of the fall. We create shovels and tractors to help us work the unruly land, and we invent soft bedding and epidurals to help ease the pain of childbearing.  We build air conditioners and heaters to overcome the weather and drive-through windows to overcome our hunger. We invent lightbulbs to overcome the darkness and search engines to overcome our lack of wisdom. Each of these inventions brings us  incredible benefits, and collectively they work to reduce the suffering that we experience from the curses of the fall. And yet, like Adam and Eve’s clothing, our technology never truly solves the deeper problem of sin that came with the fall."


"We use our idols fundamentally as a way of meeting our needs apart from God, and this is our greatest temptation with technology—to use it as a substitute for God."  


"If you ask the average person, 'What is the meaning of your cell phone and what sense of identity and values does it mediate to you?' you might be answered by a confused look. But if you ask, 'How would you feel if you lost your cell phone?' the immediacy of the answer would betray deep beliefs about what it means to be connected. It may be that the cell phone is not just a tool but an integral part of the person’s identity, who they define themselves to be."


"...in the post-fall world, God not only approves of but even helps with our technological development. At the same time, technology is also one of the chief means by which humans attempt to create a world without God. As our technology grows more and more powerful, the illusion of control becomes increasingly convincing. Today, our powers have grown to the point that in Western industrialized countries, we can go through our entire lives without the slightest physical need for God or other people."


"In his later years, Marshall McLuhan offered us what he called a 'tetrad' that is helpful in understanding how those tendencies emerge and play out within a culture. McLuhan’s tetrad proposes that all media and technology do four things.  First, they extend or magnify something that we do naturally. For example, a mobile phone extends our ability to communicate and enhances our sense of personal identity. Second, they eliminate or amputate something that we used to do. Mobile phones eliminate the need for landlines, and they also eradicate one’s ability to be unreachable and alone. Third, all media retrieves something from the past. Mobile phones retrieve the ability to connect on a regular basis with a frequency and familiarity that people were accustomed to when they lived in small villages. Finally, every technology has the possibility of reversing into a more negative behavior when it’s overused. When we use mobile phones too much, we never deeply connect with anyone, and instead we may maintain surface communication with everyone."


"At one end of this story is a pristine garden prepared by God for humankind to develop and transform. At the other end is a glorious, heavenly city full of human creations, art, and technology. At the center is our Savior Jesus Christ crucified on a cross, the most horrific of all technological distortions, built by transforming a tree from the natural world into a tool of death. Yet in his resurrection, Christ redeemed even that tool, transforming it into the symbol of our faith that eternally portrays his power over death and sin."


John Dyer (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) has been a web developer for more than ten years, building tools for Apple, Microsoft, Harley Davidson, the Department of Defense, and Dallas's NPR affiliate. He currently serves as the Director of Web Development for Dallas Theological Seminary and lives near Dallas, Texas, with his wife and family

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