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'.


  1. I was in the Netherlands recently myself and spent time in Den Bosch... home of sint janskathedraal. You might appeciate a little bit of technology they tossed in there.... one of the angel statues used in the latest restoration project is wearing jeans and talking on a cell phone.

    1. and why not... apparently the Sagrada Família in Barcelona has all kinds of normal everyday scenes such as a picnic basket, a puppy dog etc. Rather than Sacrilegious I think it is the way they should have been built.