Friday, May 23, 2014

May Micro Blog: Technology, just start the conversation

Blog writing feels a bit like what the newspaper 'men of the past must of felt like, you write, the words go out, but is there anyway to effect change? Well today I have a message, I want you to do something.

I teach Sunday School at our church for grades 5-7. It has its frustrations and challenges but occasionally there are amazing moments. Recently I taught a a series of classes on using the internet. You say really they are bit young aren't they. No Way! 9 out of 9 had electronic devices. Five of the nine could independently connect to the internet with no adult supervision. But that wasn't where the idea for the class started. That came about because after some conversation which I won't detail here, I asked whether they get taught anything about using the internet at school. Oh yes, but the lessons are lame - they don't know what they are talking about was the response. I get the impression its all about how to 'use' and nothing about the wider understanding of it.

So you adults out there - just think - the common joke for years has been that the best person to program the VCR (xyz machine) is to get the closest 12 year old. So the equivalent is we now have technologically illiterate teachers trying to talk to kids about the internet - just think about that for a moment. These kids live and breathe the net, they are the digital natives but they are still pre-teen they have no idea of what they are playing with. I'd be the same as putting them out on the savannah and seeing if they survive.

The fun bit is that if you know a little of the technology - the Bible speaks into their lives like a bell chiming.

Passages like Colossians 3 come so alive because they see what is going around them (I won't fill in the gory details but you read the news and the kids see stuff all the time).

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility,gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Really if you start with their world and specifically technology, then often the Bible isn't hard to talk about at all. Finishing within the alotted time is more the problem once the conversations get really going. And the cool thing, its kids who aren't from a Christian background whose eyes go widest at what we are discussing - its relevant, useful and they want more.

So I urge you start the conversation! Just start it. Its not too hard. We need to have lots of conversations around technology at church but at least if you do nothing else talk to the kids. it will go in weird directions I am sure of it but go with it, I am sure it will be rewarding for you and them!

Monday, May 19, 2014

May Micro Blog: Sola Scriptura

The Protestant Reformation adopted a fivefold saying.
  1. Sola scriptura ("by Scripture alone")
  2. Sola fide ("by faith alone")
  3. Sola gratia ("by grace alone")
  4. Solus Christus or Solo Christo ("Christ alone" or "through Christ alone")
  5. Soli Deo gloria ("glory to God alone")
Often the first of these by Scripture alone has been interpreted as the book – the ‘device’ printed words on a page. Now increasingly, we are aware that early churches without the printing press had to hand copy the text and read it out loud for people to hear it. Churches have always read the scriptures during a service but I have been in a number of Churches where there is an increased emphasis on this for example reading a large slab of text before a new series starts. I for one love this. 

There is increasing commentary (easily found on the web) about the changing paradigm of the text from oral to printed book and to electronic. Okay boring so far.

However, last week I attended a seminar at which Bruxy Cavey spoke. He put a spin on this that was truly fascinating, one that I have not heard quite this way before and it is, I thought worth sharing. The scriptures are not solely the text or even if you want to spin it differently the Word made flesh – Jesus. One way in to think about it is that in NT to 'read' the scriptures, it would have had to been read for you and then because of the what that entails it would be in a group setting - the community together. You gather together to hear the words read. You couldn't hear the words outside of a group setting. Now the printing press changed that - individuals could read it for themselves it private, which has had important advantages but that wasn't the NT worldview.

It is a worthwhile point - the device, the printed book or electronic media may matter less than the continued act of meeting together. The Church - the body - needs to be together sharing space and time in a place. Sharing food is seems to be important as well which just a bonus. Do other things if you like but be physically together with others as well.

Monday, May 12, 2014

May Micro Blog: Cathedrals, Time and Technology

Recently, I was in the Netherlands and of course enjoyed the food (especially the cheese- said in Wallace and Gromit voice) and the sites: old European cities of narrow streets and in the Netherlands – the beauty of small canals. Of course being in Europe you can’t help but walk past many Cathedrals. We visited one – Gouda’s amazing Janskerk.

It is the longest church in the Netherlands.

Photo sourced from wikipedia.

 It is well known, for good reason, for its beautiful stain glass windows.
Photo: Brian Wixted.

Not this window, but the one next to it has a very clear date of 1603. I cannot help when I am in these churches to ponder time. Actually, when I am in Europe which is not that often, I am drawn to the Cathedrals exactly for this experience; to ponder theology, time and eschatology. What was the theology of the people who would devote themselves to such a large endeavor for such large periods of time? And it need not be the formal theology – what was in the craftsman’s head who worked on a window, where the window next to him may not be completed in his lifetime.

One idea just keeps circling in my head; how would we behave differently if we believed Jesus may not come back for a thousand years; maybe we would become complacent and lazy or maybe – what would we create, what would we as the entire body of Christ be released to do? This has obvious implications for our attitudes to technology but I will spell it out.

Much of what is written about technology from a Christian perspective (well actually this is pretty general but it is very true of Christians) is about the technology of this minute. Writing in 2014 about the implications of the invention of the telephone would clearly get very few readers. But I think we need above all a sense of perspective a sense of the longnow (to borrow the title of a resource rich blog).

We live in the now, our now, but our nows add up. Our view of time within an ethical / moral / theological framework changes our priorities for what we spend our time on. Some of what is being said about current technologies is ridiculous on the criteria of the long now. Rather than pick on particular technologies of the minute, should instead we look at the big trends – engage those, shape them, critique them, be anything but not passive. Let’s as Rikk Watts said in a Regent World be 'entrepreneurial communities'.