My particular concern in thinking about AI and technology more broadly is around ethics – is it good? As a pastor, I also have a particular concern to think about the interface of faith and technology and both a theological and practical discipline.
‘The Christian and Technology’ by John Fesko is an attempt to do that, a pastoral approach to technology, helping Christians to be thoughtful and considered in their use of technology. Fesko is clear from the outset, this is a ‘devotional book’ original based on a series of chapel lectures, indeed this certainly feels like a pastor warmly speaking to his flock.
Fesko addresses six areas of technology; screens, social media, automobiles, books, virtual reality and the Internet. From the outset it’s encouraging that this book takes technology in its broadest sense, not simply looking at the latest fads, but applying the same principles to areas like books and cars, significant tecnhology advances that we have come to assume.
Each chapter takes a similar approach to technology; helping us to see why it is not neutral, a warning to master, rather than be mastered by technology, and a recognition that where technologies advance it is often accompanied by some moral or societal regression. In this short book, there are only passing references to understanding how technology and society function, but even these brief thoughts help us to see the bigger picture.
The focus of the book is really a pastoral message to Christians. It’s not seeking to dogmatically instruct Christian beaviour, but rather to ask incisive questions to get the reader thinking about their own faith and engagement with technology. Fesko’s ability to ask thoughtful questions of his reader is the best feature of this book.
As a Christian technologist, I’m keen to see the church use technology well, and so I perhaps find Fesko a little on the negative side, though theologically he’s clear that technology is a blessing from God. Yet, I’m also conscious that in a tech-saturated world, perhaps the church has a role to play in providing sactuary and rest from our hyper-connected digital lives. Fesko’s conclusion though is right, echoing Romans 12, “do not be conformed to the patterns of the world and the technologies we use but be transformed according to the reneweing of your minds…”