Sunday, June 10, 2007

Technology and Christian Communion

This is an excerpt of an interview with Singaporean theologian Simon Chan. I like what he has to say about technology because I'm so thankful for the way blogging has enabled me to stay in touch with friends who are now scattered around the world. And yet, this excerpt reminds me that communicating in this way is far from ultimate. "No matter what virtual technology can create, it will never be an adequate substitute for communion."

I believe that if we have a clear, coherent ecclesiology, if we know what it is to be the church, then technology will have its proper place. It's when we lack a clear understanding of our own identity and are driven by a pragmatic understanding of the church and its mission that technology becomes a threat to the life of the church. For too long, evangelicals have been driven by a rather shallow understanding of the church. We tend to see the church as a kind of pragmatic organization to fulfill certain tasks. And of course, if the church is viewed in this way, then we use technology very uncritically as long as those tasks are done.

This is especially important when it comes to the ultimate meaning of communion. Technology has created what we call virtual reality. It can give you a sense of intimacy. But whether it is real intimacy or not is quite another matter. I think this is where the Christian understanding of community enables us to look beyond what modern technology can offer, because the Christian understanding of real communion is embodied communion. Communion means bodily presence. That's at the heart of our incarnational theology, God coming to us in person; it's the meaning of the resurrection of the body. So no matter what virtual reality technology can create, it will never be an adequate substitute for communion.

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