Reviews of Media Technology Books at ‘Christianity Today’ (@Byers_Andy)

As participants in the BigBible community, we are all mutually invested in thinking theologically, as well as practically, about how we can use digital technology to communicate today as Christians. So we want to share with one another insights and resources for how to think more clearly about the various concerns.

To that end, one of my jobs as a theological consultant here at BigBible is to call attention to helpful resources. And there are a couple of reviews I want to point out that have recently appeared at Christianity Today, a leading Christian magazine based in the States.

One of the books featured recently is my own book TheoMedia: The Media of God in the Digital Age (Cascade, 2013). It is quite rewarding as a writer when someone gives your work enough attention to review it, so a big thanks to Jeff Haanen for giving TheoMedia a good read. (And Bryony Taylor just reviewed TheoMedia at BigBible if you want to check it out). 

The other review at CT is one I wrote on Craig Detweiler‘s latest book iGods: How Technology Shapes our Spiritual and Social Lives (Brazos, 2013). Though I register a couple of critiques, I think this book is actually a very helpful work and worthy of our attention. What I find most helpful is that he takes us behind the scenes (and behind the screens!) of the most influential media technology companies and provides theological reflections on how they were founded, how their founders think, and how they have offered products and solutions that have given shape to the digital age.

One of Detweiler’s major themes is that technology boasts a theological agenda, and its reception is often expressed in religious terms. Here is how I put it in the review:

Though our modern scientific era may seem nonreligious (and even anti-religious at times), secular society often appeals to religious language when describing digital technology. Even though much of this spiritualized rhetoric is caricatured and tongue-in-cheek, it has a considerable impact on contemporary discourse. Opening a brand new package from the Apple Store can be portrayed as a sublime experience of worship. Surfing the Web can seem like an out-of-body ascent. Clicking Google’s search button feels like consulting an all-knowing oracle. Tweets can be prophetic and status updates confessional. The release of Steve Jobs’s “Jesus-Phone” was hailed as apocalyptic, and Jobs himself became iconic even before his untimely death. As Detweiler puts it, “technology has become an alternative religion. It has distinct values, celebrated saints, and rites of passage.”

I hope that piques your interest! Check out the reviews, and let us know what you think if you give these books a thoughtful read.

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About AndyByers

I serve as the Chaplain for St Mary's College at Durham University while working on a PhD in the Department of Theology. CODEC has also taken me on to work as a theological consultant of sorts for the BigBible blog. My first book is about cynicism toward the church and disillusionment with God—'Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic-Saint' (IVP Likewise, 2011). My latest is ‘TheoMedia: The Media of God in the Digital Age’ (Cascade Books, 2013).