We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Inter-webs and Theology

The website Digital Book World (DBW) recently posted a review entitled, "Pew: Internet Will Be Like ‘Electricity’ in 2025," which reports on a research publication, "Digital Life in 2025," put out by Pew Research Center "to mark the 25th anniversary of the creation of the World Wide Web."  It makes the point that as important as the Internet has become to us, it is going to become only more significant, ubiquitous, and seamlessly woven into daily life in the years ahead.  Both the DBW review and the report itself observe that there will be both immense benefits to be gained and serious dangers to be addressed as the Internet becomes ever more a dominant part of our world.

The one thing that struck me personally from reading the review article and skimming parts of the report itself is that the Web has become a setting in which to reflect on important theological subjects raised in its various corners by a variety of sites. If all theology is culturally bound and if it must finally be culturally relevant, then it is not too much to say that the Web has become a cultural medium of immense significance not only for life generally but also for theological reflection in particular.  Blogs like this one thus become a vehicle for theological reflection, and theology itself becomes a more fragmented, helter-skelter, on the fly, piecemeal enterprise.  It is also more 3-dimensional in that we can move around in Web space quickly pulling up links from here and there.  And while we can and should debate pros and cons of Internet as a context and medium for theological reflection, the reality is that we have no choice in the matter.  Theology has to take place in the world in which it finds itself.  It has to use the language, media, and reflect the cultural context of that world.

The ongoing spiritual and intellectual theological enterprise may not change in the ultimate sense, that is in its stretching to understand the incomprehensible and in its quest for the Kingdom, which is the reign of divine peace on this planet.  But surely it is having a significant influence on how we "do theology' in a cultural medium that is the very essence of scientific technology.  The trick for us is to see the Internet and its scientifically-driven ethos as another arena for the work of the Spirit and the task of theology.  I guess that is a prayer.  Amen.