Sunday, January 24, 2010

the more everything changes...

I suppose it could safely be guessed that the author of this Ooze entry would not mind that someone would make comment on his thoughts, given the content of his article. Well, whether so or not, let us be off...

Theology After Google

There so often seems to be this emphasis by postmoderns on some kind of event or some thing that they focus on as being rather a kind of turning point, or a kind of marker in time, where they say "when X happened, things changed or began to change". World War II, particularly the part in Europe, seemed to be that thing for the philosophical side of postmodernism. For this more popular form, there are a few candidates--the fall of the Soviet bloc, the internet, maybe 9-11.

So, what about Google? Or, more precisely, the internet as a whole?

Why is it that most Americans today don’t walk down to their neighborhood church on Sunday mornings for worship, Sunday School, and a church potluck?

Were I content with just being snide, I would say "They don't walk because they drive their cars". I'm not, though I will throw it out there.

Why don't most Americans do that? Perhaps because most aren't believers? After all, we are a country of religious freedom, so people are not required to attand a church service, Sunday School, or potluck, thank you very much.

And, frankly, I think that a good thing. Why should people who have no desire for church be forced to go? Understand what I just wrote--I think it would be good for them to go, if they go to a church that truly preaches God's Word, but I would not force anyone to go.

Although some Christians seem to get it that “everything must change,” why is it that the vast majority don’t seem to recognize the enormous changes that are already upon us?

Oh, some of us do see these "enormous changes", which I would guess this writer means thing like the Emergents and the Liberals. Sigh, oh yes, such enormous changes, unlike anything in the past, except that, well, there were all kinds of things like it in the past. The church, after all, has had to put up with smarter-than-God heretics in the past. The church has been pronounced dead before, and while most of those who have announced it's death have themselves found their graves, the church has shown more life than they gave it credit for. Such great excitement over, for example, the Gospel of Thomas, like we were the ones who first took it seriously, plainly forgetting that Christians roughly 1800 years ago also took it seriously--so much so, in fact, that they found it to be seriously wrong, and dealt with it accordingly.

Do we really inhabit two different worlds: those who text, Twitter, blog, and get 80%of our information from the internet, and those who are “not comfortable” with the new social media and technologies? It's the same world. Sorry, but Twittering doesn't make you special. And if there are people who choose to not lead a plugged-in life, or who do so in a very limited sense much like myself, than more power to us.

Could we today be facing a change in how human society is organized that is as revolutionary in its implications as was the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg over 500 years ago?

Well, first, though I am a respecter of Gutenberg and his printing press, I would need to know exactly what this writer means by how it changed human society and how it's organized.

If we are, what does all this have to do with theology and the church?

First, should we assume his "If we are"? What if we are not? For that matter, so what? He has used the language of "everything must change", but why must it change? Must I think that the advent of Google rivals the advent of Christ? Should I think that because a person believed X to be true the day before Google advented, that the day that person must now believe that X is not true, because everything has changed?

No doubt, someone will say that the rhetoric of "Everything must change" is simply hyperalventilation, a bit of overstatement to make that point. Very well, if we wish to be more exact, we may say "Most things must change" or "70-90% of things much change" or "We think that there are things that must change but we're not sure yet what exactly but we know it will be almost everything".

To look at a parallel, how did things change when, for example, the steam engine was created? Well, journeys that once took months became journeys of days or maybe a week or so. Then came the automobile, which became for most people a more personal change. Then the airplane, and trips that took days with the train became trips that took mere hours (not counting layovers and delays).

So, some of the outer forms have changed. But how much have things really changed? People who once walked or rode mules or horses or wagons to work not drive cars to work. People who once took boats to cross the oceans now fly airplanes. Not saying that the changes weren't significant. But the things is, people didn't really change.

Before, a man might have to go to a bar, or a brothel, to satisfy his lustful urges. Then there came the magazines. Now, he can go online and find the pictures and videos. The means have changed, or more accurately diversified, but the man himself has not. Before, a person may have needed guns and dynamite to rob a bank. Now, all he or she needs is someone else's identity, which is far too easy to get. The techniques of robbery may be different now, but theft is still theft.

Why we should assume that what was true 2000 years ago is today not true is beyond me. I suppose a person could argue that the Apostles were wrong to have thought that they had seen the resurrected Christ, because dead men don't become not-dead, but if what they believed was true, then nothing that happened with the advent of Google made it not-true.

The phrase I have heard was "chronological snobbery", the idea that people today (whenever "today" may have been or is now) are vastly superior to the ones who were around yesterday. Oh, let those old-timers be respected, of course, they did the best they could with what they had, but we have more, and are simply smarter. We found the atom, and flew to the moon, and we have the advent of Google. In the face of such modern miracles, we deny that the old miracles really occurred. We can make puppies that glow in the dark, but we cannot accept that God took water and made wine. We can question the nature of matter, but woe betide the man who says that the axehead really floated.

Perhaps it may safely be said "The more everything must change, the more everything just stays the same".

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