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Dec 6, 2011

On Break

Greetings to my blog readers. I'm taking December off from this little blog. Work and family need my attention more. I hope I can post on occasion, but if not, I hope to see you back in January.

Nov 18, 2011

Old Technology Commercials

This article links to several old commercials for then-cutting-edge technology. The AT&T ones are from 1993 and...we're basically there now. It makes me wonder what the iPad and other tech that seems so great today will look like 20 years later. I confess I'm not even sure what I would expect to see 20 years from now. I'll hope for a big shift to solar power and 99.95% accurate computer voice recognition.

Nov 17, 2011

Dishonest Weights and Measures (repost)

In walking through technology references in Proverbs, I've come to the first of several on dishonest weights and measures, so I refer you back to that post for thoughts on those.

Nov 14, 2011

Where's the Bach of the Web?

Go take a look at this short article about the creation of cultural artifacts. While there may be arguable things there, his main concluding point made me pause to think: what is an example of "high culture" on the Internet? Where's the Bach of the Web?

Nov 11, 2011

Funny Commentary on Twitter

Short video that pokes fun at our focus on broadcasting our own thoughts rather than focusing on the thing we're currently experiencing.


(HT: Take your Vitamin Z)

Nov 9, 2011

Wisdom Rejoices

Today, we'll look at Proverbs 8:22-31 and how it relates to technology. If you back up to verse 12, you'll see that the speaker is the personification of Wisdom and that section speaks to its many blessings. In this passage, Wisdom tells us that it was possessed or created at the beginning - before the earth was made. Starting with v. 27, we see Wisdom was present with God during the creation of the earth. Wisdom was working beside God "like a master workman," was a delight to God, and rejoiced before Him in the work that was done.

What does a technologist take from this? First, that the creation is in many ways like an act of making technology. God chose to specifically design things the way they are. We see the verbs shape, made, drew (a circle), established, and marked out, showing an active construction project. An engineer taking cues from what God did is a good thing.

Second, wisdom is a part of, indeed a prerequisite of, creating something good. In the end, God declared the creation "very good," and we see Wisdom here rejoicing over that creation as well. Much like my previous post on Proverbs 1:7, wisdom is needed to make a good design, "like a master workman."

Third, wisdom delights in the work that is good. We can rejoice in God and take delight in a technology that is new and good.

Nov 7, 2011

Review - SimChurch: Being the Church in the Virtual World (Part 2 of 2)

I suggest you start with Part 1.

I should make clear that I have mixed feelings about SimChurch. I think a biblical case can be made that it is not possible to have an online/virtual church, and perhaps I or someone else will do a rigorous job on that someday.  If he's right that these things are growing, it will become more necessary. I'd like to think I made a start by pointing out how it is impossible (or at least very problematic) to meet certain scriptural marks of a particular church, particularly the sacraments.

Nov 2, 2011

Wisdom in Engineering

To continue my look through Proverbs for passages dealing with technology, I came next to Proverbs 3:19-20:
The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.
This is a simple point, but as the first and best engineer, God did His work by wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Looking at how we train engineers, we certainly get a lot of knowledge from many different fields in our classes. However, only at some times did I gain wisdom. It was the professors that had real industry experience or at least a lot of consulting that gave us most of that; sharing not just textbook knowledge but stories from their own experience. You could tell that they had really been out there and gotten dirty rather than staying in the ivory tower.

My point is, God used both knowledge and wisdom to design and build, so we need to train those who make technology in both. And, we can never have enough of those, so we must keep an attitude of learning both throughout our lives.

Oct 31, 2011

Review - SimChurch: Being the Church in the Virtual World (Part 1 of 2)


SimChurch: Being the Church in the Virtual World asks very good questions but (in my mind) comes to the wrong conclusions.

To summarize Estes, he claims that virtual worlds (such as Second Life or World of Warcraft) are real places where people increasingly live, work, play, and interact. As such, they are also a space where the Church needs to go to evangelize and disciple. This includes planting virtual churches. As opposed to more broadcast methods of ministry (think televangelism or podcasts), Estes claims that the richness of interaction afforded by current technology lets us do (at least nearly) everything a local church needs to do. In some cases, he claims we need to develop new ways of "doing church" that are better suited to this new medium that may even be better than real-world churches. In the process, he touches on topics such as presence and community, the mediated nature of technological connections (e.g., via avatars), "lifeblogging," online worship, church authority, online sin & accountability, and virtual communion and baptism. He is honest in pointing out the problems, such as with communion and baptism, but remains very optimistic about doing virtual church and how it can be a significant part of the Church Universal. 

Oct 28, 2011

A Liter of Light


This is beautiful and reminds me of my favorite definition of engineering: engineers design things to make people's lives better.

Oct 26, 2011

Starting Knowledge for Technology

Creating and using technology requires knowledge. I assume that's pretty clear; an engineer needs to know quite a bit to be able to design an effective car engine or a safe bridge. And in engineering (and other technical fields), one subject builds on another so you go from foundational knowledge (algebra, chemistry, physics, technical writing, etc.) to more advanced, specialized knowledge for your field. But where do we start? What is the ultimate foundation of knowledge?

Oct 20, 2011

Technology Cannot Overcome Death

My apologies for a lack of posts - life happens. Looking forward, I'm currently reading a book called SimChurch by Douglas Estes and will blog about it soon. I also plan to go through the book of Proverbs and discuss the many verses there that address technology. 

However, for the moment I want to reflect on a recent event. A friend of a friend (who I do not know) passed away suddenly this week. I found out about this via my friend's posts on Facebook. This woman was 35 and a mother of 5 girls. In spite of our medical technology, the doctors could not save her. I cannot lessen the tragedy here, and can only imagine the pain her family and friends are experiencing right now. To me, besides a reminder of the reality of death (and our sin), I am reminded that no amount of technology will ever overcome death. But how is death defeated? I Corinthians 15:54b tells us "Death is swallowed up in victory." Not technology, but the victory of Christ on the cross, won for His people. And even death will be destroyed in the end. Looking elsewhere for salvation from death is useless and foolish. Looking to Christ is life and peace.

Oct 10, 2011

Free Kindle book from John Dyer - Today Only

John Dyer's book in Kindle version is free today:
http://donteatthefruit.com/2011/10/my-book-is-free-on-amazon-today/

I haven't read it but here's a great chance to pick it up and check it out.

Some Steve Jobs Links

This is a roundup of obituaries and commentaries on the death of Steve Jobs I personally find interesting.

Oct 7, 2011

Still wear a watch?

Watches are apparently for old people. When the band on my most recent watch broke, I gave up on them myself. I have my phone with me all the time and often my iPad, so why bother? I think we're in a time of transition around watches and other technologies as mobile devices grow in use in our culture. However, I have a few observations.

Oct 5, 2011

Overcoming the effects of the fall

I firmly believe we should try to push back the effects of the fall - and technology is one of the main ways we do so. We'll never overcome sin (without Christ anyway) but some things we can indeed improve.

I'm sure there are various rational, logical arguments for this. However, I think this video, of a woman born deaf that can finally hear her own voice using technology, is a much better "proof" for pursuing technology in a fallen world:



Thanks to the Washington Post blog.

Oct 3, 2011

Just discovered some more blogs

I recently found some more blogs that focus on the intersection of theology and technology. Here you go:
Let me know of any others that might be helpful.

Sep 29, 2011

Technology kills a form of Christianity

This article by Terry Mattingly caught my eye: Goodbye to that old mountain religion.  Living in the mountains, I'm somewhat familiar with this idea. To summarize, the forms of Christianity that sprung up in the appalachians are dying off. Whether that's good or bad is another issue, but they certainly are. Technology plays a role in that increased transportation and communication to the region have brought outside influences. These have come through radio (gospel and now praise-band music) and missionaries from other branches of Christianity that seek to evangelize and area and (possibly) take some sheep from other branches. The local forms are not holding up against these new ones.

Whether good or bad, increased access is making this form with Sacred Harp singing and baptizing in the rushing rivers decrease in size. 

Sep 27, 2011

Job Fulfillment - More Tech is Bad?

The University of Chicago recently released a study on the happiest and most hated jobs in the country. This report from the Globe and Mail summarizes the top ten of each. While all jobs deal with technology to some extent, the ones that are most hated involve a great deal of information technology. I'm not sure what to make of this - I really enjoy my job but that's one anecdote. The big question is why; why do these IT centric jobs have such a poor rating?

Thoughts?

Sep 23, 2011

21st century knowledge needs

I've experienced a tension between two poles these past two days. I'm at the North Carolina Teacher Education Forum and have been to some sessions that are pulling me in different ways. On the one hand, our state's education standards are pushing us to teach K-12 students in our state to be able to use "21st century" technology. We're not always sure what that means, but one really interesting example was having student calculate the distance to the moon by measuring the radio echos from NASA tapes of the radio transmissions from mission control to the moon landings and back. But then, I went to another session on a group that was working with the public schools in Malawi. Malawi is one of, if not the poorest country in Africa, has a life expectancy of less than 40, and many other systemic problems. This group went with very "low tech" solutions such as crayons and poster-size books to help teachers (who may have 120 students in a classroom) teach students of various languages.

On the one hand, I want NC children to have strong technology skills (and thinking about technology) but what about those students in Malawi? How do we help them learn just basic skills? They're in the 21st century too, whether they look like it to us or not.  Which group do I serve best in my job? What is most Christ-like? My thought is to serve the Malawi as they are so far behind in my perception and would benefit so much more from what seems to us like such small effort.

Perhaps after more reflection I will think more clearly about this.

Sep 21, 2011

Retro Ads for Modern Gadgets

In light of my previous retro post, here are some modern devices put into retro advertisements. I think it's interesting to look at how technology is packaged and advertised - that conveys what the company wants you to think about what the device can do for you. I like the Nokia one best myself.

Sep 13, 2011

Fixing my dryer

To summarize a major experience with technology this past week...

Various dryer parts: $45
Dryer vent cleaning kit: $60
Amount of lint removed from vent: 47 cubic feet (approx.)
Days without a working dryer: 7
Used home repair book from the 70's: $2
Satisfaction of not having to call a repairman: priceless
In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. -Proverbs 14:23

Sep 12, 2011

A Revealing, Convicting Inference

My apologies for not posting in a while - my day job and family take precedence.

Several days ago I was at the grocery store late at night for a few essentials we had forgotten. There was only one checkout lane open and I was behind a couple that was taking a long time to pay. I was getting impatient and so paid more attention to what was "the problem." They were counting out change to pay for their groceries, mostly in nickels, but some dimes and quarters. The cashier was patiently helping them count stacks of coins into whole dollars. I then noticed they had only two relatively small bags they were taking with them. They were not well-dressed.

I was thoroughly convicted of my impatience. Here I was, running out to get a few things we forgot while these folks may well have been paying for some bare essentials with the last of their resources before next payday. I was impatient at the "old" technology they were using, but that very technology implied something about their condition which ought to bring out my compassion. I wonder how many others out there in this poor economy are resorting to change jars to make ends meet?

Aug 26, 2011

Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy

Sometimes we need a vehicle like humor to remind us how amazing our technology is.


Aug 24, 2011

Blockheaded Idolators

Isaiah 44:12-20 shows the foolishness of making and worshiping idols - really worshiping any created thing besides God. A man takes half of some wood and burns it for warmth and cooking; with the other half he shapes an idol and worships it. His first action shows his own power over the material, while his second action shows he thinks the material now has power over him.  Beyond this humorous and pointed picture, I have a few observations related to technology.

Aug 22, 2011

Engineering Inspired By Creation

Take a look at this article from Wired: Mother Nature as Engineer. While I take the creationist stance and I assume the author does not, we have applied a great deal from designs we see in nature to our technology.

Personally, I think of it as imitating God, the ultimate engineer.

Aug 19, 2011

Simple Technology Can Go A Long Way

Take a look at this video about the Forgotten Foundation. Be warned that there are some graphic images in there.

Starting around 10:00 or so, they talk about the relatively simple technology they offer the Karen people when they arrive. With just a few things, they can get started creating a new home and can even find new life through the Bible being read in their native language.

Praise God for the work done among these people, and for the technology that plays a small part in it.

Aug 17, 2011

Nehemiah The Project Manager

When we lived in Texas I was part of a men's breakfast study group at our church. For a time, we studied the book of Nehemiah. Over the course of this study (and teaching a few times) I became fascinated with him. Many Biblical figures such as David and Peter are held up as great examples of manhood for their courage and boldness. Nehemiah can and should be considered part of that group of men we can look to. Besides his prayerfulness, leadership, and courage, he was a skilled project manager.

Aug 15, 2011

Gadget Love

According to this blog, a survey run by Intel showed that a large number of Americans really love their technology gadgets, more than family and more than their favorite food. Some caveats: I can't find a link to the original survey & results, so it is difficult to draw conclusions from this. I don't know what population they surveyed, how they surveyed them, what questions were asked, how they define "gadget" (iPhone, iPad, or pencil sharpener?) etc.

Still, I'm sure there are people that love their gadgets this much. As Calvin says, our hearts are idol factories. Our gadgets are good a providing personal comfort, entertainment, and a sense of independence from others. They immediately respond obediently and are focused on our personal pleasure, unlike a spouse, children, and other relatives where we have mutual needs we need to meet. This self-focus is one of their great attractions.

If anyone out there finds a link to the original report, please leave it in a comment.

Aug 12, 2011

Answers in Genesis on Technology

Answers in Genesis has a post about technology. The story about the woman objecting to the use of color printing was interesting and can be an analog to many other types of technology. I left the following comment for them on Facebook:
One thing technology does is extend the reach of our communication. We've come a long way in a short time from delivering letters by horse to overnight air shipping, phone, email, youtube, etc. Yes, all of these technologies can be used to share both truth and lies, but so can our own tongues; they only extend the reach of our tongues. We need not fear the technology when it is used to convey truth.

Aug 10, 2011

John Dyer's From the Garden To The City

John Dyer, a technology and theology blogger has a book out: From the Garden to the City
. He's releasing chapters on his website: http://www.fromthegardentothecity.com/ if enough people help promote it through social media. He's gotten some good endorsements and I've found many insightful posts on his blog. I have not read the book myself, but I encourage you to go promote it to help open some of the chapters.

Aug 8, 2011

Technology Predictions from 1900

Here are some postcards from 1900 that predict what the year 2000 will be like. Interesting to see how their predictions were so strongly influenced by their current technology and culture. It is difficult to predict technological innovation, much less how it will change society. It's also interesting to think about how fast technology advanced over that century.

Aug 4, 2011

Review: Wayward Technology

I found Wayward Technology by Ernst Braun in the campus library section I mentioned previously. I've slowly read it and recommend it for anyone thinking about the nature of technology. It's rather difficult to review as it is so wide-ranging. Braun looks at technology from a sociological perspective, showing how technology and its innovation have always been central to the development of society. He defines technology as "the creation and use of artifacts for practical purposes." According to him, technology is pursued and desired for it's ability to grant independence/self-sufficiency and power/self-determination. However, it can also tend to remove creativity and judgment and impose control on us in various ways. He believes we experience a tension when working with technology between our dependence on technology and a fear of submission to it.


Jul 25, 2011

Technology's Design Guides It's Use

This BBC article talks about the open structure of the internet. One point that struck me is that the way we build a technology determines how it will be used, and so puts our values into it. The internet is open, in that one node can talk to another without the system caring what is said - it just transfres it. If we don't believe in such openness, we could have built a highly managed system that only allows certain types of files or information.

I argue that technology is not neutral, but will have the values (or theology) of the designer built-in for good or bad.

Jul 21, 2011

Good Bye Space Shuttle

And so ends the final Space Shuttle mission. I remember when school would stop and we would all go in to the auditorium to watch a shuttle launch. I certainly remember the Challenger explosion. Some technology can become an assumed part of the background of life, like indoor plumbing. But the Shuttle never was that for me.

Jul 18, 2011

Technology Impacts Our Perspective

Take a look at this article by R. C. Sproul Jr. He argues that our news and communication technology make us feel like we're a neighbor to people and situations when we're really not. This works out in the media attention on the death of one little girl and ignoring the thousands upon thousands of aborted children.

Jul 14, 2011

Wordle From My Technology in the Bible Notes

As a personal project, I've been reading through the Bible and taking notes on references to technology. I took my raw, unedited notes and pasted them into Wordle. Here's what I got.

Wordle: Bible Technology Notes

Jul 11, 2011

Review: The Pencil

The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance by Henry Petroski is just what it says: a history of how the pencil came to be what it is today. When you think of technology, the pencil is hardly the first item that comes to mind. They're cheap, bought by the dozen (or gross), are given away for advertising, are of no consequence if lost, and are hardly thought of. But consider for a minute: how would you make a pencil?

Jul 8, 2011

Virtues of Books

How to Survive in the Age of Distraction by Johann Hari talks about books. Hari's thesis is that books are good and necessary, even if ebooks pass them by. Why? They force us to read in a particular way. Books do not facilitate multitasking, link to other sources, or play background music. They are just there, requiring you to be patient and take the text as it comes. Their permanence is also a virtue; if taken care of they will exist decades from now.

Go have a read.

Jul 6, 2011

Source of Stability and Salvation

Isaiah 33:5-6 stood out to me recently when I read it. These verses point out some things we pursue nearly universally as humans: stability, salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. Certainly a great many Americans value our relative stability. 9/11 was a blow to that, but we've gone back to our lives quickly. I wonder how often we think of the wars going on overseas that now work to maintain that stability. Whether we call it salvation or something else, we value being rescued from trouble and freedom from guilt. Our God-given curiosity has pushed us to pursue wisdom and knowledge.

Jun 29, 2011

Turning to Technology Rather Than God

Welcome back to me!

Isaiah 22:8-11 is a prophecy about Jerusalem. The people are facing a siege and so work to repair the city wall and make sure they have a good water supply. All this will take a great deal of planning, coordination, and effort to shore up the technology that keeps the city in existence.

May 17, 2011

Some Links

I'm technically still on break, but here's some links to articles I found interesting.
I get interested in these things since I work specifically in educational technology.

May 11, 2011

On Break

The semester is over and I'm going to take some down time from the blog (among other things). My apologies, but do check back in a few weeks.

May 2, 2011

Bin Laden Dead - Within Walking Distance from a Catholic Church

As news comes out about the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, we learn a bit about the compound where he was staying. Apparently, it was designed with huge, thick walls and a maze-like entrance. One thing that flagged the mansion (once identified) was that it had no phone or internet connections. Given the expense of the place, that seemed odd.

Still, while technology played a role, it was old-fashioned intelligence that ultimately located him.

Some other miscellaneous things:

That last one strikes me. Here's a church within easy walking distance from him. I know nothing about St. Peter's except that it is Catholic. What significance does that have - that here is a place that should worship God and proclaim His Gospel within walking distance from the headquarters of a mastermind of terror.

What do you think?

Apr 27, 2011

Morality of Confiscating Technology

Deuteronomy 24:6 is part of the law code of ancient Israel. It states that one cannot require a mill or upper millstone be taken in pledge for a debt. In other words, you can't take someone's technology that they require for their livelihood as collateral.

A few things I take away from this:
  • God knows the centrality of technology in how we make a living
  • God himself has a high view of that technology and seeks to protect it
  • We must not take away someone's means/technology to make a legitimate livelihood

Apr 21, 2011

The Technology You Meant for Evil...

With Good Friday and Easter this week, I've reflected on that event and all it entailed. Keeping with the theme of this blog, I thought about the technology involved in the events of those days. Mainly on how evil they were, yet how God used even these for good.

Apr 19, 2011

The Pope: Technology Cannot Replace God

I have to agree with what the Pope said recently about technology. His basic point (according to the article) is that while technology has allowed us to do great things, it has also increased our capacity for evil. We must abandon our pride of wanting to be God - to be all-powerful. We can never attain it anyway.

A healthy dose of humility will benefit anyone working with technology.

Apr 13, 2011

Remember God as the Source of Technology

You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. -Deuteronomy 8:18
This passage speaks to any means we may use to gain wealth, including creating technology. Two main points I see here:

1) God gives the power - it is He that gives us wisdom, knowledge, and skill to work with technology and to earn a living from that.

2) We are to remember this. It seems obvious, but we can all think of times when we forget this to be the case. For me, I struggle with pride and so consider my skill to be something I have personally achieved rather than having it given to me from God. If we believe in a sovereign God, we can see that He directed us to and provided the means for our education, including all the institutions and teachers that provided it.

Are there other ways we don't remember God as the one who gives us the ability to make and use technology?

Apr 11, 2011

Appropriate Technology

Interesting post on appropriate technology. I agree with this - we too often rush ahead and implement a technology without thinking through how it may disrupt good patterns in life.

Apr 6, 2011

The Bible's Building Code

When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.
Deuteronomy 22:8
This verse is one of the earliest building codes. If we understand what this verse teaches, we can apply it to many other situations where we must incorporate some safety mechanism in technology.

Mar 28, 2011

A Counselor Looks at Facebook

Article about how Facebook is about false intimacy.

That resonates with me. I describe Facebook as "a way to think you're keeping up with people." It is nice to get some inkling of what old friends are up to that are far away. But, it is terribly easy to put forward a false image and to engage in false relationships that may feel more fulfilling that a marriage.

Mar 23, 2011

"New" Technology?

I have struggled with Ecclesiastes 1:9-11. I have made many "new" things in my life, particularly computer software that didn't exist before. How many people, engineers, computer scientists, artists, architects, craftsmen, have made something "new" that was never seen before? Assuming (as I do) that Scripture is the inerrant, infallible Word of God, what does it mean here?

I went to Matthew Henry for some insight. He points out that new things may not be new as they may have come before and simply not been recorded, and that there is nothing new in natural creation as it was finished on the sixth day. The hearts of men are the same, so corruption and sin always run their course with ancient heresies and false philosophies.

But, I ask, what about the moon landing? Surely that is one of the greatest technological achievements and something that is "new." Well, I think from the perspective of this passage, no, that is not new. Travel by various contrivance is not new. The moon itself and all the gravitational forces between it and the earth are not new. Going someplace people have not been before is not new. We learned a great deal about how the world and universe work, but was it really new? Though difficult for me, I must conclude that the Apollo program was not "new" in the sense of this passage.

As Matthew Henry quotes:
Tatianus the Assyrian, showing the Grecians how all the arts which they valued themselves upon owed their original to those nations which they counted barbarous, thus reasons with them: "For shame, do not call those things eureseis—inventions, which are but mimeseis—imitations."

To conclude, a major application Henry makes is to show us our pride in thinking we came up with something new rather than pursuing what is truly new - new life in Christ. And indeed such mercies are new every morning.

Mar 21, 2011

Prayer for Japan

Considering the terrible devastation in Japan, I ask that you stop and pray for the people affected.

It has been remarkable to watch some of the many videos from the tsunami - seeing how much infrastructure is simply washed away by the torrent of water. That's a lot of technology that used to be people's dwellings, work places, comforts, and various means to earn income. Even worse, so many have lost their lives.

Some of the videos that affected me the most were from aircraft showing the water as it was washing over towns. In one, I noticed a vehicle driving on a road going toward the oncoming water. It stopped before the water got to it, turned around, and drove back. I wonder if the driver and any passengers are still alive.

Mar 16, 2011

Who built the ark? Noah, Noah...

Many are familiar with the story of Noah's ark, but have you ever thought of the technology involved? Look closely at the narrative. God gives some engineering specifications to this large structure: materials, dimensions, door location, and numbers of decks. Even with that (and assuming that is all of the revelation God gave Noah), Noah and his sons would have had to make many decisions about how to actually build the ark. And God, apparently, gave them the freedom to do that.

Also, the size of the ark is immense: a cubit is about 18 inches, so this is a 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high boat.

My takeaways:
  • Is there enough room for all those animals and their supplies for a whole year? Well, it certainly is a huge boat.
  • God gave some necessary specifications but not an exact blueprint. The rest was left to Noah & sons to figure out how to implement. Praise God that He gave us good minds to be able to figure out such problems.

Mar 14, 2011

Review: Devices of the Soul

Devices of the Soul: Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines by Steve Talbott is one of the books I found in the library during my browsing. I find he makes many similar points to The Soul in Cyberspace, though he does not work from a Christian foundation. I'd summarize the main point of this book as: we must be cautious of our habits and attitudes of our souls in the use of technology, lest we become accustomed to conforming to them rather than being human.

I'll focus on one way he works this out is related to disabilities. One may have some disability, but that may push you to have a different perspective on the world and indeed grow in ways others do not. Chapters 4 and 5 on this issue are really thought provoking. He shares an instance of a man who was blinded as a child, yet went on to be a major leader in the French Resistance in World War II.

My thought while reading these sections was on suffering. How do Christians view suffering? Do we run from it, like most Americans, that seek ever more comfort and security? Or do we understand that it is something that comes and that God uses it for our good (Romans 8:28)?

I suppose if I were disabled in some way, such as losing a limb, I would want the best technology available to replace the functionality I had. But, all things work together for good as scripture says. Perhaps the decision to get a prosthetic is not one we should make automatically, but thoughtfully. Is this change in life for my good? Undoubtedly. Is it more for my good if I do not use some technology to replace that functionality, but rather learn to function in different ways or be limited in one way and grow in another?

Though not written from a distinctly Christian viewpoint (the author states he was raised in a Christian home, but he makes no statement on his current beliefs), this is a thought provoking book about technology and how our beliefs should shape our view of it.

Mar 11, 2011

WIRED interview with article Edward Tenner

Go check out the WIRED interview with Edward Tenner. Interesting because it focuses on the consequences of technology - something I think Christians must think more about.

Feb 28, 2011

A Digital Disciple

Nifty: I'm the Digital Disciple for the day. I look forward to seeing how this site might grow. The purpose is to help Christians working with digital technology connect with each other.

Technology Supporting Thinking

I've been interested in the nature of technology for some time, which I can trace back to both my near life-long fascination with computer technology and to all the thinking I had to do as a PhD student in engineering.  Though my particular focus here is the intersection of technology and theology, I have been trying to read about the nature of technology - what is this thing that I work with so much?

To pursue that, I went to the campus library a few months ago and started searching the database on some keywords that I thought would get me close. Taking the resulting little scraps of paper with some call numbers, I set out for the shelves. As an aside, I think this is one area where search engines like Google fail. They are designed to take you to exactly what you want to find. In my case, I don't know exactly what I wanted to find but I was able to find some books that, according to the library's information in their database, looked close. Then, I could park myself at that bookshelf and browse through the books around that one that I found. I picked up several books that way - perhaps 1/3 of which were not part of my original set I went to find.

Anyway, I've been reading through them (or just returning them after finding them not helpful or indecipherable) and will bring up some of them in the future here. My point in bringing this up is to point out I used a database (a very modern tool) to find books (a very old tool) that are organized by subject (an in-between tool - using call numbers by subject). Technology is great!

Feb 25, 2011

Recycle!

We take a break from our regular blog posting to ask you to wisely recycle your electronics as part of caring for the earth. Here are five suggestions on places to take your old electronics. Our county now offers electronics recycling at our local recycling centers, so that's another option for those in Jackson County, NC.

Feb 23, 2011

God Designed the Problem and the Solution

I must give credit to Dr. Andrew Peterson from one of his lectures in his RTS Virtual course Disabilities and the Church for pointing out this passage and its teaching on technology.

Take a look at Isaiah 28:23-29. The prophet describes certain agricultural tasks, noting that there are different ways to process different crops. In verse 29 we find that the matching of crop to technology (particularly seen in verses 27-28) is from God. How is this so? After all, people invented the tools and techniques.

Feb 18, 2011

Cyclic Reaction to Technology

Go read this article in Slate about historic reactions against new technology.

I think it brings up a good point about how there are legitimate concerns about "older" technology, but that we may or may not see the terrible consequences predicted by early criticisms of a new technology.  Sometimes we just have to wait and see how something plays out.

That said, we can still use some discernment and caution today.

Feb 16, 2011

Where Does our Skill Come From?

Given that we engage in technology, and that some engage more than others, where does that skill come from?

Exodus 28:3 is just one place to look of many that make a similar point. Here, we see that God has given the skill needed to make the priestly garments for Aaron and his sons. It is not that these "skillful" folks didn't learn and practice, but that God ultimately gave them their inclination and abilities.

Maybe this is obvious to you, but for me as an engineer, this fact can get obscured. When going through my undergraduate degree, it is easy to think that engineering is about all the various science, math, equations, graphs, and other skills you need. It seems to come from professors, textbooks, standard tables, or bare scientific laws. Or perhaps, an engineering student may credit his or her math-oriented brain for being able to take this all in and apply it in a useful way.

It is humbling to point, not to the collective wisdom of man on statics, calculus, and power curves, nor to our own seeming brilliance, but to God as the source of what we are able to do in technology.

Feb 14, 2011

Pitfalls of Twitter for Ministry

From an article about social media in general:

One of the things I learned is that technology and social media present me with a glaring paradox in my own life: Social media have the ability to make me feel connected and isolated. I found that this isolation, or loneliness, is often rooted in disconnection with those we are in physical relationships with, and as we spend more time fostering online connections, the chasm widens.

Go read the whole thing

Feb 11, 2011

Virtual Confession - There's an App for That

Saw the news this week about an app for the iPhone/iPad that assists Catholics in performing confession.To be clear, you cannot actually engage in confession through the app - it is only an aid, particularly directed toward those that have not engaged in it for some time. A couple comments on this and on some comments the Pope made...

Feb 9, 2011

Against Virtual Church

I'm a big fan of technology. I think it is absolutely amazing what we are able to do with it in terms of transportation, communication, medicine, and so many other fields. However, there are some things that are not improved by technology, even if they are possible.

Being part of the local church is one of those.

Feb 7, 2011

Review: The Soul in Cyberspace

I read The Soul in Cyberspace a while back and it still makes me think about how we use Internet technology.

A major point of this book is that much of the information technology we employ now (more even than back in 1999 when it was written) disembodies us and decontextualizes information. And, this is bad. Bad for deep understanding and bad for community (among other things).

Feb 4, 2011

Technology shaping Christianity

This is a three year old article, but it is an interesting take on how different Christian leaders view technology. Some comments on each person's statement:

Feb 2, 2011

Technology Required for Worship

There's plenty of ink and pixels spilled to discuss how we should "do worship" in the church. One can tune in to some of the megachurches that broadcast their work to see what technology they use. Here's an example - an iBand.



I confess my church worship experience is very limited, so I don't know if that is extreme or mainstream. In thinking about technology in our current church, we use instruments, some fluorescent lights, an audio system, various printed pages (a bulletin, a hymnal, etc.), chairs, and probably other things I'm leaving out.

However, not everywhere in the world has these things, nor have they always had some of these ( like an audio system). So what is the very basic technology required to have church? I would include only three things:
  • Bread making
  • Wine making
  • Some vessel for holding water
  • Some means of storing and reading text
As best I can tell, that covers everything required. The church administers the sacrements, so we need bread, wine, and some thing to hold water. We could probably even leave out the water vessel if the church is close enough to some body of water or a spring. Finally, some means for storing and retrieving the text of the Bible is necessary for worship. We don't need anything else to pray, sing, read scripture, administer sacrements, preach, or pronounce benedictions.

I don't think that all technology above and beyond this is bad, but this should make us consider what is really essential and central to worship.

What do you think - did I leave any technology out?

Jan 31, 2011

My (Late) Grandmother on Technology

I was thinking about a post by John Dyer referring to our perceptions of technology. Older technology, such as indoor plumbing and air conditioning, are just assumed in life - we don't really think of them much as "technology" but just stuff that is part of life.

This reminded me of an assignment I had in sixth grade. I had to interview an older person about their perspective on living now vs. when they grew up. I interviewed my Grandmother Lyle. One thing really stuck out to me: I asked her if she preferred living now or back when she was growing up. She answered now, partly because there are so many more labor saving devices, specifically mentioning washing machines. She thought it is much easier to live now as there is much less manual labor for the regular person.

This and the God's Technology video I recently reviewed reminds me to be thankful to God for technology. He gave us brains and raw materials to make all the technology we have today that really does save time, labor, and frustration.

Jan 28, 2011

God the Designer

As an engineer, I revel in reading Psalm 104.

God designed the earth, set it all in place, and made the habitats for the various creatures. And this wasn't haphazard, but done "in wisdom" (v. 24).

The psalm is also bookended by praise to God for His creation. Indeed, the psalmist declares he will sing to the Lord (v. 33) even as God Himself rejoices over His works (v. 31).

Some takeaways:
  • Biology, ecology, forestry, geology, etc. are good things that point to our God's work
  • Go outside and share this joy in God's works
  • God designed in wisdom - so must I
  • God rejoices in His creation - can I do the same with mine?
What else strikes you in this psalm relevant to technology, design, or other topics?

Jan 26, 2011

Technology Replaces Talking

Interesting article from USA Today about technology and whether it connects or disconnects us.

On a related note, I'll share an anecdote from this past March, originally posted on the family blog.

Our family went out to a local restaurant, and I keep reflecting on an incident there. We were in a row of booth/tables and soon after we sat down, a young couple (probably undergrads) were seated next to us. At least I assume they were a couple as they came in together. They said less than 10 words to each other the whole time we were there.

Why? The guy spent almost the entire time texting on his phone. He started soon after he sat down, paused to order, and started up again. At first, I thought it odd but assumed he was finishing up some text conversation. Our family continued our conversation and fun. The place had a bunch of "stuff" hanging from the ceiling so that was a distraction for the kids for a while. Later, during a lull in the kids activities, I noticed that the guy was texting (still?). I hadn't heard a word from their direction in a while - so even if there was a time when he was not texting, he wasn't exactly making conversation.

Now, I have no idea what the girl is like, but she seemed to be putting up with this with great patience. If this is habitual behavior, I think she should dump him for treating her rudely.

Should we be so attached to being connected anytime, anywhere, that we ignore the person in front of us?

Jan 21, 2011

Implications of the Internet for Theological Debate & Shepherding

Another chapter in the ongoing controversy of the Federal Vision theology in the PCA. The theological issues are beyond the scope of this blog (and I don't have a dog in that race anyway) but the presbytery report discussed in this article is interesting for the technological implications for the Church (big "C").  Item 15 of the presbytery's preliminary report reads:
MOP instructs its Administrative Committee to draft an overture for the Presbytery to send to the General Assembly or seek some other way to initiate a denomination wide conversation regarding public disputation on the Internet. Such a conversation should also include a) questions regarding the relevance and application of Matthew 18 and other Scripture that might help foster and promote Christ-honoring discourse throughout the PCA; b) a discussion of possible revisions to the BCO that could be brought by presbyteries to the General Assembly (e.g., make more explicit the process for injurious reports derived from Internet sources); and c) a basic set of standards outlining the duties presbyters owe each other as brothers in the faith and fellow servants of the church in the midst of theological disputation.
A little background knowledge. My denomination (the PCA) is presbyterian. We work through various "church courts" starting with a local session, the regional presbytery, and the General Assembly (other terms and levels are used in other presbyterian bodies). Formal rulings on a theological debate occur in these courts, which are made up of the ordained elders of the church - all of which are considered equal. The highest office in the PCA is the moderator of the General Assembly - he serves for one year and just runs the meeting.  If an elder is thought to be in error on some doctrine, a court can examine him - and either side can appeal to a higher court if they disagree with the ruling. The issue of Matthew 18 is brought up as the church courts are part of the process described there for correcting erring brothers and sisters.

We as a denomination (and I imagine others) are now struggling with what happens when someone puts out something through this very easy to use broadcast channel known as the Internet.  Apparently, there is the claim that one group of elders is putting out a bad or possibly false view of another elder on the internet rather than going through a church court. There is in fact a fine line here - Galatians 2 shows us how one apostle rebuked another publicly, and so we presbyterians take that to mean that elders should (at least at some point as a correction process proceeds) have a public rebuke.

Now, I think the Internet can be a very useful tool for theological debate, given some guidelines (basically treating a debater the same as you would in person). However, in the case of shepherding/correcting, I think it is telling that both passages above sound like you're talking to someone in person. Paul opposed Peter "to his face" in front of others. Jesus tells us to "go to" your brother that sinned. Maybe Skype counts, but these sound like "in person" events. Thus, it seems to me that technology mediated communication is not the way God intends this correction to take place.

Do you think dispute and/or correction can take place via the Internet?

Jan 19, 2011

Dishonest Weights and Measures

In Proverbs, there are four verses that condemn dishonest weights and measures: 11:1, 16:11, 20:10, 23. This is certainly a working out of the commandment to not bear false witness; it also falls under covetousness - the underlying heart condition that leads one to gain more profit from another. To be clear, I don't think these refer to a broken gauge (an accident), nor to the deli counter ringing up 1.07 pounds of sliced salami as just one pound (generosity), but one that is wrong in the owner's favor by design. Let's look in more detail at how honest and dishonest weights and measures are described.

Jan 17, 2011

Definition from Responsible Technology

In a recent post, I started working through a definition of technology. I dug out the book that has been most significant to my thinking about technology and found a definition there. See what you think:
Technology is a distinct human cultural activity in which human beings exercise freedom and responsibility in response to God by forming and transforming the natural creation, with the aid of tools and procedures, for practical ends and purposes.
-Monsma, Stephen V. (ed.) Responsible Technology, 1986, p. 19
Keep in mind that this is a "normative" definition - what technology ought to be.

My main complaint is the part about "forming and transforming the natural creation." This phrase sounds like it was made by a mechanical or civil engineer, referring to buildings, structures, and machines, not thinking of the myriad digital creations we have today. We can take a very wide view of "natural creation" (and I do) to include electromagnetic waves, bits in a computer, maybe even logic structures and that would make the definition still fit. Still, I'd like to find a better phrase to capture this idea.  Perhaps replace it with "...harnessing and directing the materials and forces of the natural creation..."

I considered trying to include something about design and/or creativity, but I think other parts of the definition cover this.

So, I'm left with:
Technology is a distinct human cultural activity in which human beings exercise freedom and responsibility in response to God by harnessing and directing the materials and forces of the natural creation, with the aid of tools and procedures, for practical ends and purposes.

What do you think? What improvements should we make to this?

Jan 14, 2011

Review: God's Technology video

My wife was given the opportunity to download a free copy of God's Technology, a video about training our children to rightly use digital technology. It is produced by HeadHeartHand and features David Murray, a professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. Here is a review.

Dr. Murray presents some guiding principles in how Christians should think about digital technology and some practical steps to guide children to learn how to use them.

Some things I particularly appreciated:
  • He points to God as the ultimate source of digital technology and social media, and that He is to be thanked for them. 
  • Training our children in how to use digital technology doesn't just focus on behavior, but on the heart. He encouraged interaction with our children about their online habits, both good and bad. 
  • Digital monitoring tools are good supplements, but do not replace in person supervision, interacting, and good modeling.
As for the production, it is clean and professional. The visuals support the talk well without being distracting. My one complaint is putting in the animated clip about social networks in the middle of this video. I'm not sure it is necessary, and going between different production styles is jarring.

Overall though, I recommend the video for the practical advice that can be used with any age child on godly use of digital technology.

Jan 12, 2011

The Apostle John on Social Media

I recently read through the epistles of John and two passages struck me as relating to technology.  Particularly, John tells us that communication technology has its place, but must not replace in person contact.
Here's 2 John 12:
Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

3 John 13-14 is almost identical.

Let's walk through this.

Jan 10, 2011

Doug Wilson on Technology & Eschatology

Doug Wilson has a thought provoking piece on technology. Conclusion/main point:
The constant and ever present temptation in the Church is the gnostic temptation of locating sin in the stuff, sin in the matter, sin in the wealth, sin in the technology . . . instead of locating it where it belongs, in the heart of man.
 Go read the whole thing.

Jan 7, 2011

Define Technology

Definitions lead to a shared sense of what two or more people are talking about, so I'm going to start by trying to define "technology."

Jan 6, 2011

Swiss Cheese Failure: The BP Oil Spill

According to a BBC news article, a new report blames "bad management" for the BP oil spill disaster of last year. However, if you read on the article notes many sources of failure.  You can think of this through the "swiss cheese" model of failure.

Jan 5, 2011

Welcome

Greetings and welcome to A Theology of Technology. The purpose of this blog is to think through and flesh out a Christian theology of technology. What does the Bible tell us about how we should think about and interact with technology? What guidance does someone who creates technology have from the Bible? We'll look at these questions and much more.

Exploring this topic in a blog interests me for a few reasons. First, I'm an engineer.  I create and use technology all the time, and so want to think about and interact with technology in a more Biblical way.  Second, I work in a college of education where we emphasize training teachers to train K-12 students how to use technology.  I'm curious about the importance of teaching ourselves to use current technology in ethical ways. Third, our culture is steeped in a massive amount of technology.  Humans have always worked with technology, but it seems to have increased as our science and civilization have grown.  Finally, a great deal of technology is invisible.  How often do you think about the implications of listening to the radio while driving or working?  The radio is a relatively new technology in history - how has that changed interaction between people and is that good or bad?  Whenever we get to questions of good/bad we are in moral territory, and so turn to our theology.

So please join me on this adventure.