“Technique has penetrated the deepest recesses of the human being. The machine tends not only to create a new human environment, but also to modify man’s very essence…. He must adapt himself, as though the world were new, to a universe for which he was not created. He was made to go six kilometers an hour, and he goes a thousand. He was made to eat when he was hungry and to sleep when he was sleepy; instead, he obeys a clock. He was made to have contact with living things, and he lives in a world of stone. He was created with a certain essential unity, and he is fragmented by all the forces of the modern world.”
—Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society
In 1892, the American Psychological Association had only two disciplines of study. By 2007, it had divided into fifty-four different subdisciplines of psychology. Of course, psychology is by no means the only field of study prone to such divisions. Indeed, it is no wonder that a first-year college student has such a difficult time choosing a major, even if they might know generally where their interest lies, as the myriad of options can be quite difficult to narrow. Indeed, even the seminary student is forced to choose specialization between Biblical Studies and Theology, between Christian Leadership and Global Leadership, between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
We might rightly call this “specialization” of knowledge, but could it not also appropriately be termed “fragmentation” of knowledge, or fragmentation of information, when the student of Old Testament studies is entirely unaware of how their field has bearing in philosophy, or has minimal understanding of its relationship to the New Testament? That is, if every discipline, if every area of knowledge remains divided from the next, such that it functions in total isolation from almost all other areas of knowledge, is this not the very image of fragmented truth?
Indeed, Plato’s (and Socrates’) primary protest against the written word and a literate culture is that it would result in a devastating loss in the capacity of the memory. In order to achieve true wisdom, one must be able to make broad associations between various disciplines of knowledge. Yet, without a high functioning memory in which all areas of learned knowledge can be easily recalled, these sorts of associations cannot occur in one’s mind. Rather one must continually re-read the information and can only make broad associations across divergent fields when one has all the written resources in front of them. One does not actually possess knowledge of all of this information, but rather, knowledge of the tools whereby to find such information. Thus, one cannot actually live their life according to wisdom but only the “semblance of wisdom” because a person will no longer be able to call to knowledge such associations “from within themselves.” At least, this is the argument that Plato entertains in the Phaedrus.
To capture this concept, imagine the academic disciplines as pieces in the puzzle of Truth. Each legitimate discipline is one piece of the truth, one piece of the puzzle, so to speak. It is quite difficult to get a very good idea of what image a puzzle is portraying with only one piece or with even a few disconnected pieces (except in that case where one special piece illumines everything else, which piece many have long suggested is the Gospel). And, so, the question becomes: Who is putting the pieces together?
It is a good and necessary question to ask: What does one particular piece, say behavioral psychology, look like? Still, it is an even better question to ask: To what other pieces does this particular piece connect? It is this cross-discipline question that I think is sorely lacking. That is, we are so consumed with specialization of knowledge that we are all stuck looking at one particular piece, as if it were the entire puzzle itself. We neither have an understanding of parts coming together, and, perhaps, more despairingly, we seem to be unaware that there is a greater whole. Yet, unless God, the Ground of all being and all knowledge, is fragmented (rather than the “simplest” of all beings as many philosophers have noted), then neither is Truth fragmented.
Plato may have been right. Even the late scholar and disciple of Marshall McLuhan, Walter J. Ong, makes a more recent case for such a scenario in Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word, in which he contends that literacy not only has changed the function of our memory but has even reshaped the conscious lens from which we view reality and the nature of language itself. He offers an example in which he asks his audience to imagine thinking of the word “nevertheless” for two minutes without imagining the letters or the spelling of the entire word in your mind. For a literate person, this is impossible. But for a person of an oral culture, the reverse is impossible. Of course, Ong’s thesis is to highlight, à la McLuhan, the significance of the medium of information and not just the content:
“Sight isolates, sound incorporates . . . Vision comes to a human being from one direction at a time: to look at a room or a landscape, I must move my eyes around from one part to another. When I hear, however, I gather sound simultaneously from every directions at once . . . By contrast with vision, the dissecting sense, sound is thus a unifying sense. A typical visual ideal is clarity and distinctness, a taking apart. The auditory ideal, by contrast, is harmony, a putting together.”
As a short aside, it might be worth mentioning that the very first individual that is said to be “following” Jesus on the “way” in the Gospel of Mark is indeed the blind man Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52). As the Gospel opens with an allusion to Isaiah in discussing John the Baptist as preparing the “way” for the Lord (Mark 1:2), and hits a climax in Jesus’ foretelling of his own death and inviting others to deny themselves, take up their cross, and “follow” him (Mark 8:34), so the exact same Greek cognates are used to summarize Bartimaeus’ faith (Mark 10:52). For the world demands visual signs but wisdom “looks” for an altogether different kind of sign. Or, as William Blake cautioned:
This life’s five windows of the soul
Distorts the Heavens from pole to pole,
And leads you to believe a lie
When you see with, not thro’, the eye
That was born in a night, to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in the beams of Light
(William Blake, “The Everlasting Gospel”).
There is power in hearing which sight simply does not possess. Or, as Ong might put it, there is a harmonizing effect in the spoken word which the written word simply does not possess.
The point is not that the eye, or the written word, is useless. Analysis is a necessary skill to rightly see the parts. But harmonizing the many and varied analyses is a necessary skill to rightly see the whole. That is, the argument need not be that the wisdom cannot possibly be acquired in a literate or visual culture, nor that literacy is without its benefits. Rather, the point is that even writing is a “technique,” a piece of technology in which the primary aim is what Jacques Ellul termed “absolute efficiency.” In other words, the methods of technology seek to combine the least effort with maximal production. But the only way to accomplish pure efficiency is to “divide and conquer,” to fragment operations into more and more specialties. The eye does this on one level. The written word does this on another level. But, today’s “techniques” might be of an altogether different kind of level.
Consider that we now live in an ever-increasing world of efficiency, where the entirety of the human sphere is measured by this first principle of technology. Millions of jobs are being displaced by machines, not because we have been convinced that work is insignificant for human flourishing, but rather because we have been convinced that efficiency of work is more significant than human flourishing. As one scholar put it: “Left to itself, technology so thoroughly subordinates human ends to technical means that those ends are lost” (John Paul Russo, “The Humanities in a Technological Age”).
Consider today’s preferred piece of technology, the screen:
“A three-channel black-and-white medium that stopped broadcasting at midnight became a 15 billion-channel, full-spectrum universe that you now carry around in your pocket all day, sleep with in your bed, and engage with first thing in the morning. Digital media announces, with every minor incident, ‘Updated three minutes ago'” (Read Mercer Schuchardt, “Taming the Image”).
Published in 1953, Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451, depicts a future dystopian world in which every wall in one’s house is a screen, whereby all people spend their entire time staring, speaking, and engaging the walls. It is a world where talk never gets past the weather, even between spouses, where thriving community and friendship is all but extinct, where mass media does all the thinking for everyone, and finally where books are burned instead of read. Sound familiar?
Besides creating an artificial reality in which we are no longer present to the sounds, sights, and people right in front of us, the screen is but another technique of efficiency. Remember that everything we see on the screen is merely a representation of that thing, but it is not the thing itself. In this sense, they are fast and efficient, allowing us to grasp the “gist” of something without much effort or thought. This is why television and video games are preferred to reading a book. The entertainment comes far more easily, far more quickly. There is no need for mental exertion, sustained imagination, or patience. Media is effective because it entertains with minimal effort and maximal production. This is why it is easy to spend an entire weekend watching your favorite shows without end. It is literally effortless on your part.
Perhaps that’s not all bad, but in combination with the whole of technology, it is yet another mode of reducing human life to the principle of efficiency. Furthermore, the fragmentation of information through the screen, especially as is mediated through the internet will further fragment society as a whole: “A society in which it becomes easy for every small group to indulge its tastes will have more difficulty mobilizing unity” (Ithiel de Sola Pool, Technologies without Boundaries).
In other words, in the virtual world, you no longer need to confront differences, opinions you disagree with, challenges or difficulties with which you would rather not deal, thereby making it all the more likely that further divisions are created within society and even within the individual person. In short, the virtual world of screens allows us to draw artificial, disembodied boundaries around life that do not exist in the real world.
Or consider the manner in which our screens are reshaping language. Students now regularly submit school papers utilizing the grammar, syntax, and even spelling of text language. It is efficient, to be sure, but can the reductive language of screens truly capture the great philosophical questions of humanity? Unfortunately, the model of conversation through our screens is quickly becoming the model for all conversation.
The simple fact is that our screens are not only mere distractions, even incessant distractions, not when the average amount of hours spent in front of a screen or on a media device exceeds the amount of hours we spend engaging with others. Marshall McLuhan was right: “The medium is the message.” It is not merely the content we engage on media that is communicating to us. It is the very form behind the content that is the real authority, the real message, and that message is plain and simple: the screen is our master, and we, its slave. As author John Paul Russo put it: “Technology . . . is the system in which we live and move and have our being” (John Paul Russo, “The Humanities in a Technological Society”).
So, where does this insatiable drive for efficiency arise?
Oxford fellow and neuropsychiatrist Iain McGilchrist retells a story originally composed by Friedrich Nietzche about a wise and benevolent King, who was selflessly devoted to the good of the people whom he ruled. As his small kingdom prospered and grew in number, there was an ever-increasing need to entrust his emissaries to govern in his stead, especially in the more distant parts of the kingdom. In time, however, one of the more ambitious of these emissaries utilized his own localized wealth and influence in order to exploit the King’s humility with the goal of usurping the throne for himself. The story ends with the emissary overthrowing the King and ruling with such tyrannical force that he leads the kingdom and himself to its demise.
Dr. McGilchrist comments:
“The meaning of this story . . . helps us understand something taking place inside . . . our very brains . . . though the cerebral hemispheres should co-operate, they have for some time been in a state of conflict . . . At present the domain—our civilization—finds itself in the hands of the [emissary—the left hemisphere], who however gifted, is effectively an ambitious regional bureaucrat with his own interests at heart. Meanwhile the Master [the right hemisphere], the one whose wisdom gave the people peace and security is led away in chains. The Master is betrayed by his emissary” (Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World).
“Fragmented”—not only are we divided along class lines, along racial lines, along gender lines, along political lines, along generational lines, and along familial lines, but also the fragmentation of our culture cuts right through the split in our own brains.
While the creation story of Genesis speaks of this wonderful order where halves unite to form wholes, where waters above and waters below, night and day, sun and moon, land and sea, plant and animal, male and female, all come together with their other half in order to bring forth life, yet, today, there is only division, only fragmentation, and thus, we are desperately deficient of life.
Commenting on his life’s work in neuroscience, Dr. McGilchrist suggests that the popular notions of the right and left hemisphere are not quite accurate. It is not that one hemisphere controls language and logic and another controls creativity and imagination. Rather, both hemispheres are involved in everything, yet they simply see the world through a different lens: the left, through a hyper-focused, narrow lens that gazes upon the parts in objectified isolation; the right, through a broad lens that gazes upon the whole in imaginative integration.
And while cooperation between the two hemispheres can permit significant advantages to understanding the world around us, Dr. McGilchrist warns:
“The left hemisphere, which creates a sort of self-reflexive virtual world, has blocked off the available exits . . . into a reality which the right hemisphere could enable us to understand . . . An increasingly mechanistic, fragmented, decontextualised world, marked by . . . a feeling of emptiness, has come about, reflecting . . . the unopposed action of a dysfunctional left hemisphere.”
Dr. McGilchrist is suggesting that the left hemisphere’s narrow vision has come not only to “predominate” our view of reality but it has also effectively blockaded much of the right hemisphere’s necessary integrative role. This is more than unfortunate because it is the right hemisphere which “sees the bigger picture,” as it is the only one capable of relating and integrating distant parts, “seeing the woods for the trees”: “Our talent for division, for seeing the parts, is of staggering importance—second only to our capacity to transcend it, in order to see the whole.”
The example Dr. McGilchrist offers here is what it means when we say we “know” someone. The left hemisphere sees all the physical parts: height, weight, hair color, physical features, etc. But the right hemisphere sees the invisible whole, the body and soul united into one personality.
Note that the reason the majority of the world is right-handed is because it is controlled by the left-hemisphere, and it is this hemisphere which has a ceaseless desire to see everything as a tool, as an object to be manipulated for efficiency and utility. And to be sure, this narrow lens which fragmentizes and so analyzes the distinct parts is indispensable for the advancements we have made in science and medicine, among other fields.
But the problem is that this requires a certain reduction of all of existence into parts. That is, it separates things from their context. This is why some in the field of science and philosophy think that human identity is merely an illusion. After all, the human person is simply made of trillions of physical cells, which are made up of atoms and other atomic particles. Ultimately, it is the right hemisphere that wishes to solve this dilemma by seeing all of those parts as pieces of one unified whole, the body, mind, soul, all together in unity.
As Dr. McGilchrist has noted, the western world has, at least since the period of the Enlightenment been increasingly leaning on the left-hemisphere, even permitting for the atrophy of the right. An interesting historical study of portraits from the Renaissance in comparison to portraits from the Enlightenment to today shows a striking difference. The majority of portraits in the Renaissance are facing to the left, meaning it is the right hemisphere which is primarily viewing the face. Yet, it is the opposite since the Enlightenment, where the majority are notably facing right, so the left hemisphere can dominate the view.
Or consider that written language has evolved from being first written vertically, then horizontally from right to left (like Hebrew), to being written from left to right. Indeed, the left hemisphere prefers to read horizontally, while the right prefers vertical. And the left reads from left to right, because this moves it to the right visual field, controlled by the left hemisphere. Might the mere evolution in the written word demonstrate a dominance of the mechanistic thinking of the left hemisphere?
The point is that there are generations of people who possibly could “see” things that we are merely incapable of seeing, simply because their right hemisphere was more functional. Dr. McGilchrist contends that an increasingly technological society has accelerated this problem to the degree in which the entire western world has capitulated.
In his work on patients with both right-hemisphere stroke or trauma and schizophrenics, he suggests that remarkably both patients exhibit the same sort of understanding and behavior. Both have a difficult time understanding context and so have trouble with sequential communication. They have trouble interpreting tone, facial expressions, and expressing emotion or empathy. They cannot easily understand metaphor or how parts fit together as wholes. And, finally, they both tend to analyze and evaluate other human beings as mere machines. As one schizophrenic put it, “the world consists of tools, and everything that we glance at has some utilization.”
To state is bluntly, Dr. McGilchrist’s thesis is not merely that schizophrenia is on the rise, but rather, because of our undue devotion to the left hemisphere’s preference for technique, we have created an entire society infected with schizophrenia.
I think the best test case that confirms such a distortion is how we the western world has come to view and treat individuals with very specific mental handicaps. Consider the person with Asperger Syndrome. It is noted that people with this condition are perhaps “high-functioning” in comparison to other more severe forms of autism. That is, we mean that they can “perform” better than some others, perhaps they could even perform well enough to become a functioning piece of the machinery of society.
But what of those who cannot function at such a level, say, a person with Down Syndrome. Indeed, The Imaginative Conservative’s own Joseph Pearce recently commented in his essay on “Systematically Exterminating the Disabled” about the recent reports that babies are being aborted at incredibly high rates with the knowledge that they might be born mentally disabled, and, alarmingly, that prenatal testing in Iceland is leading to a near 100% abortion rate for unborn babies who test positive for Down Syndrome. For Pearce and his family, this hits as close to home as it comes, as he revealed that their son Leo, who has Down Syndrome, is not only nothing close to an expendable person, but he is, in Pearce’s words a “gift… in the real sense that we have been given something very special which has changed all of our lives for the better…. Leo is a pearl of great price because he is a pearl of wisdom.” I imagine this captures the sentiment of most of the families who have chosen to love a family member with Down Syndrome.
Why then, are children with Down Syndrome increasingly being considered not only burdens of society, but an entire class of humans not worth existing?
As barbaric as it might sound, in the same way that no one wants to be stuck with a television that has audio but no video, so too we have come to view one another as mere tools, as instruments useful for production or useless for production, an obvious worldview of the left-hemisphere. Efficiency is now the governing rubric by which we judge the image of another human being. Thus, many assume that those that are mentally disabled can neither live the “good life” nor contribute to the “good life,” and so, what “good” are they? Though, the problem may very well be modernity’s definition of what is “good.”
In 1964, just after completing and defending his doctoral dissertation in the field of philosophy on the topic of “Aristotle” and the “Principle of Happiness,” dissatisfied with life in the academy, Jean Vanier went to visit one of his friends who happened to be a Catholic priest operating an institution for the intellectually disabled. After seeing the plight of so many of these “unwanted” individuals, Dr. Vanier took on the adventure of inviting two of these men to live with him. He would go on to call their shared home “L’Arche,” which means simply “The Ark.” Today, there exist over 150 L’Arche communities, places where people with intellectual disabilities live, work, and share in life together with those without these disabilities.
After years of living in community alongside his mentally disabled friends, Jean Vanier pondered what he has learned from such a community about what it means to be human and what it means to live the “good life”:
“It has been this life together that has helped me become more human . . . I no longer have to pretend I am strong or clever or better than others. I am like everybody else, with my fragilities and gifts . . . Those we most often exclude from the normal life of society . . . have profound lessons to teach us. When we do include them, they add richly to our lives and add immensely to our world” (Jean Vanier, Becoming Human).
When we ponder what it means to be created in the “image” of God, it would seem commonplace to immediately assume that whatever our greatest strength, there we mirror the great and mighty power of God. So, we consider that our superior intellect that has spawned brilliant theorems of mathematics and science and envisioned marvelous wonders of technology must be the primary attribute from which we can understand this “image.” To be sure, the intellect cannot be discounted as being integral to who we are.
Yet, if the Cross conveys the full and lasting image of our God, in which Christ emptied himself, becoming weak and vulnerable by the measure of mankind if only to be strong by the measure of Divine Love, then we must admit that the great height of God’s power is not discovered in his capacity for unrivaled intelligence or unmatched force, but seems instead to be had in his capacity for unrelenting, though humble, love.
Thus, to bear the image of our Creator is best summarized, not in our capacity for intelligence, certainly not in our capacity for dominance, but in our capacity for love. This is the measure of the image of God. And many of us know quite well the undeniable worth of some of our dear friends who are so called “mentally disabled,” that is, people that we would classify as weak and vulnerable, and, yet, their capacity for love often seems to exceed our own.
The modern society cannot value the “mentally disabled” person, because the modern society has reduced human nature to efficiency and production, the same two standards by which we measure machines. We cannot value what is weak and vulnerable, because we are hellbent on pretending that is precisely what we are not.
And so the modern society cannot value a person whose entire existence will be predicated on their capacity for love, perhaps, most of all, because love demands not the efficiency of independence, but inefficiency of dependence.
Yet, could love possible be reduced to “efficiency”? Can the things we find most valuable in life be reduced to efficiency? Can truth, goodness, and beauty be reduced to efficiency? Can faith be reduced to efficiency?
For further analysis, let’s consider the evolution of one of our most sacred words in the English language:
“A major shift in the meaning of the English word ‘believe’ . . . has proven of massive consequence and fateful significance . . . Literally, and originally, ‘to believe’ means ‘to hold dear’: virtually, to love . . . The word ‘believe’ . . . began its career in early Modern English meaning ‘to belove’ . . . to hold dear, to cherish . . . To believe a person, or to believe ‘in’ . . . was to orient oneself towards him or her with a particular attitude or relationship of esteem and affection, also trust—and more earnestly, of self-giving endearment” (Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Faith and Belief).
While this basic meaning held sway for more than five hundred years, in contrast, the Industrial and Scientific Revolutions has managed to steer us to today’s dictionary definition of “mental assent to the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something.”
In order to draw out this distinction, consider reciting the Apostles’ Creed first using today’s definition of “mental assent” and then using the original meaning of “hold dear.” In the first instance, we are, in essence, trying to “think” our way into Christian belief, thinking, but not desiring, not hoping, not experiencing, not loving, just “thinking.” But in the second instance, the whole of thinking, feeling, doing, and loving can be accounted for, and it makes better sense of our favorite salvific passage in Romans 10 that we actually can “believe in our heart.” Or, perhaps the better Greek translation is that we “believe with our heart.”
Thus, faith in the Industrial Age, or its offshoot, the Technological Age, is reduced to mechanistic thinking without feeling. The world of interpersonal subjects is diminished to the world of mechanical objects. And this is useful, because it is far more efficient to only love the Lord your God with all your mind, but nothing else, far easier to measure one thing rather than several.
But the original definition is far less efficient and far more difficult to quantify. For, to make a disciple of the first kind might only requires a few courses on Doctrine, Scripture, and Apologetics and then to evaluate one’s ability to recount information, but to make a disciple of the second kind, it will probably require a lifetime of experience and education. The point is this: If the whole of human experience is involved in our acquisition of beliefs, then so should the definition account for the whole of human experience. Otherwise, we might find our definition to be sub-human, fit for beasts, or worse, fit for machines.
The question is what happens when we isolate and divide the different parts of our humanity, those things that together make us whole? When we divide the intellect from the will, our rationality from our emotions, our ideas from our experience, our hopes from our desires, our beliefs from our loves?
Consider the image of a beautiful landscape, perhaps a majestic mountainside with lush greenery, blue skies, beams of sunlight, and crisp air. But then, focus on just one particular piece of that entire scenery, perhaps on particular tree. Then narrow in more and more on one particular part of that tree. This is lens that the left hemisphere desires in order to analyze isolated data. But unless that analysis can find its way back to the whole, the beauty is lost.
The question, then, for today, is whether we have reduced our world to this narrow lens of isolated information rather than broad gaze holistic formation? Again, the left-hemisphere’s view of reality is necessary for many advancements in science. But the problem is when this reductive lens becomes the only lens by which we can see anything. A lifetime of this narrow vision of reality can be devastating:
“My mind has changed during the last twenty or thirty years. Up to the age of thirty, or beyond, poetry of many kinds . . . gave me great pleasure . . . formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry…. I have also almost lost any taste for pictures or music . . . My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive . . . The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness” (Charles Darwin, Autobiography).
The loss which Darwin laments seems to be the loss of the very parts of life that would especially distinguish artificial intelligence from human intelligence, man from machine. Can one imagine a machine envisioning or enjoying such wonderful literature as Dante or such splendid harmony as Mozart? If there is anything especially distinct about humanity that a machine could never achieve, it is these “higher tastes” for truth, goodness, and beauty. That is, Darwin himself admits that he feels more like a “machine” than a human.
Perhaps, then, our ever-expanding drive for production and efficiency is not only forcing us to perform like machines, but, to see one another as such. If, as C.S. Lewis has said, the final stage of evolution has already dawned, that is, in Redemption, we have “evolved” from being mere creatures of God to being sons and daughters of God, then in some sense we must ask what it is see one another not as mere creatures, not as mere beasts, certainly not as mere machines, and not even as mere humans, but rather, as sons and daughters of God.
“The mentally handicapped do not have a consciousness of power. Because of this perhaps their capacity for love is more immediate, lively and developed than that of other men. They cannot be men of ambition and action in society and so develop a capacity for friendship rather than for efficiency . . . Who amongst us has not been moved when met by the warm welcome of our boys and girls, by their smiles, their confidence and their outstretched arms. Free from the bonds of conventional society, and of ambition, they are free, not with the ambitious freedom of reason, but with an interior freedom, that of friendship. Who has not been struck . . . by the truth and simplicity of their nature which seeks not so much to appear to be, as to be . . . Their open natures are made for communion and love” (Jean Vanier, Eruption to Hope).
And so too is our nature.
We may consider ourselves to be a part of a renewal movement, one in which some scholars have gone so far as to suggest that the recovery of true classical and liberal education is the new monasticism, that is, a place where culture begins again. If we should consider ourselves to be longing for a new day, wherein through God’s grace, we can participate in a renewal of culture, a renewal of Christian culture, then we must begin with the renewal of the Imago Dei, the Image of God. And if we are to aspire to such, we must begin by admitting that our obsession with “technique” might be the most fundamental cause of today’s incessant experiments with transhumanism. The Church has a chance to be a sanctuary for the wearied and wandering human soul, but not if it is unwilling to call out its own idols.
The present phenomenon of recording sermons and services and replaying them to a live audience gathered for corporate worship should alarm us to the power to which we have given the screen. If one were to suggest that the only person not present in our corporate worship service is the person actually leading it, many would immediately consider that this is impossibly absurd. Yet, that we have so quickly embraced the “satellite” campus seems to be a serious indictment that the church has embraced the authority of technology.
The story of the Triune God is one where God incarnates Himself, that is, He embodies himself in real life, real flesh. Yet, the story of today is not of incarnation, but one of increasing dis-carnation, dis-embodiment of the here and now, of the flesh, of the present physical reality, for the artificial, yet-ever-efficient reality of the screen. If we should want to lead the way in recovering human identity, in restoring the Image of God to its original health, we must heed the words of Scripture, that they will know that we are Christians by our love, by our present, physical, enduring, incarnate, sacrificial, love:
“The church’s true calling in a technological society is to do the slow, difficult work of embodying God’s love, one embodied soul at a time. Embodied love is profoundly inconvenient, painful, and even excruciating. But the opposite of love is not hatred: it is efficiency. Hatred has a specificity and heat that can be persuaded and cooled. Efficiency is anonymous, cold, and ruthlessly indifferent. Efficiency communicates to the masses. Efficacy-love—saves one soul, willing to leave the 99” (Read Mercer Schuchardt, “Analog Church”).
This was originally published with the same title in The Imaginative Conservative on December 10, 2018.